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This Singapore company is turning the tide of plastic pollution at scale

Aug 16, 2022

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Plastic-waste generation across the world has more than doubled from 2000 to 2019, reaching 353 million tons. Of this, only 9% is successfully recycled – the rest are either incinerated or disposed of irresponsibly.

Nanette Medved-Po, founder and executive chair of Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX), saw this happening in the Philippines, her home turf. The archipelago produces around 2.7 million tons of plastic waste every year, but it lacks a solid waste management infrastructure to fully address the issue. As a result, it is “one of the top three most plastic polluting countries on the planet,” according to Medved-Po.

PCX, which began as a nonprofit in 2018, addresses this problem by partnering with sustainability-conscious businesses around the globe to fund collection projects to responsibly offset their plastic footprint.

“In the course of pursuing my other passion to fund the building of classrooms around the country, I was faced with this other crisis facing our country, that of plastic waste. We could not solve one problem by exacerbating another, so we came up with the initial plan for PCX to help fund plastic waste reduction efforts.” says Medved-Po.

Tackling the issue head on

PCX acts as an enabler and a connector between companies and other institutions that want to drive impact and firms that can collect, recycle, and process plastic waste.The Singapore-based firm’s legacy nonprofit operations consults with companies on their plastic reduction strategies before bringing them into its credit-based model, which funds community-based collection and processing of plastic waste.

Since its founding around four years ago, PCX has diverted more than 32 million kilograms of plastic waste from nature through these efforts, says Medved-Po. It has also invested over US$2.7 million into the plastic-waste circular economy, driving 54,000 tons of carbon reduction from coal replacement.

But even with this level of impact, issues remain, and it’s directly affecting our planet’s well-being as well as human health.

A health and environmental issue

Much of the improperly handled waste has leaked into aquatic environments. In 2019, 6.1 million tons (Mt) of plastic waste leaked into aquatic environments and 1.7 Mt flowed into oceans, and a further 109 million tons are accumulated in rivers.

“No one truly understands the full impact, but microplastics in our oceans are now being found in much of the fish we eat. This is killing millions of sea creatures each year, leading to biodiversity loss. And by some estimates, they are causing at least US$100 billion in negative economic impact each year,” Medved-Po explains.

“Microplastics are also being increasingly identified in humans, with numerous links to a wide range of cancers and other disorders,” she adds.

While some companies have taken steps to cut their dependence on plastic and use more recycled materials, existing models and infrastructure still have some way to go before they can scale up and make a tangible impact on the growing plastic waste crisis. To date, more than 10 million tons of additional plastics are entering the environment every year.

To solve the scaling issue globally and implement quicker change, PCX has now rolled out a blockchain-powered commercial marketplace for tokenized plastic credits.

Turning to the blockchain

Called PCX Markets, the recently launched platform aims to tap into “a global ecosystem of partners to drive accelerated scale and impact to stop the flow of plastic into nature,” says Sebastian DiGrande, the company’s CEO. The hope is that with PCX Markets, “we can finally bend the curve on the plastic waste crisis in the right direction.”

According to DiGrande, the company works closely with its nonprofit arm PCX Solutions and accepts other globally recognized standards providers such as Verra to help commercial and industrial partners achieve impact at scale as well as“net zero plastic waste” – if this is their objective. This is where PCX Markets comes in: Not only can it facilitate funding for community-based collection and processing efforts, but it also utilizes digital and blockchain tools to certify waste reduction measures to ensure their effectiveness and transparency.

PCX Markets links companies with ongoing global plastic recycling initiatives, giving them the opportunity to directly invest in those efforts. Some examples include community-based plastic waste collections led by women-run businesses such as the Aling Tindera project in the Philippines and the Verra-certified Second Life program in Thailand.

“We are providing individuals, institutions, and businesses with access, transparency, verification, and analytics,” DiGrande says. PCX Markets also offers an economic model designed to “accelerate critical funding to expand existing projects, bankroll new infrastructure, and support research into plastic alternatives.”

The next hurdle

PCX started out as a nonprofit in the Philippines to create a model that could help and fund local communities to learn and take action in curbing plastic pollution. With this proven model and foundation in place working with partners such as Pepsi Philippines, Unilever, Modelez, USAID, and others, PCX has now launched a commercial, technology-enabled platform that will boost and expand this impact globally.

Looking ahead, PCX envisions its platform becoming a catalyst to enable an efficient economic model to dramatically decrease the amount of plastic entering the environment.

“We want it to be a blueprint for how to effectively address other major environmental, social, and economic crises globally,” affirms DiGrande.

Singapore-based PCX partners with sustainability-conscious businesses around the globe to responsibly offset their plastic footprint and to reduce the flow of plastic waste into nature.

Find out more about PCX Markets and get started purchasing plastic credits from the inventory of ongoing recycling projects on its website.