A Story About Circular Restoration
by: Chris Parker, Director of Plastics Program | April 28, 2021
This blog provides a fictional story about a town called San Maya on the Central American Caribbean coast. Even though the town is fictional, as well as the project in this story, it is based on real activities that are currently happening in different locations all around the world. We have combined these activities into a single story to provide you a glimpse into what it could look like if we used innovation, determination, and cooperation together to address our plastic waste problem.
The Story of San Maya
For generations, the small town of San Maya on the Central American Caribbean coast made its living from fishing. In the 1990s, tourists from all over the world began coming to experience the local culture, scuba dive, bird watch, and fish. Residents enjoyed new employment opportunities and rising incomes. During the 2000s, they were able to build a new school, clinic, and water treatment plant. Plans were put in place to protect the mangrove forests, waterways, and reefs, as these were the economic resources providing new prosperity.
Today, San Maya’s beaches, estuaries, and reefs are covered with plastic waste that flows down the Rio Jaguar river from the city. The mangroves are dying from the combination of plastic toxicity, climate change, and removal. Tourists stopped arriving a few years ago due to the town’s inability to manage the volume of plastic from the river, which litters the community. With the loss of tourism income, local anglers returned to their boats for commercial fishing, yet most of their trips resulted in catching more plastic than fish. Today, the people are moving away from San Maya in search of work; they have become plastic refugees.
A Time to Restore
The future of San Maya depends on the restoration of its fishery ecosystem. This requires removing plastic waste from its environment, diverting future ocean-bound plastic, and creating a waste management infrastructure. San Maya’s plastic waste has unrealized value and, once it becomes valued, the city can help create a more circular economy in the region.
The emergence of the plastic credit market has created an opportunity to help San Maya. ClimeCo can work with the community to fund the removal of plastic waste and start a recycling operation to upcycle collected material into next-use construction products while helping to restore the mangrove forests. Local industry can be approached to solicit their support in the project to reduce the business risk associated with increased economic and societal disruption from plastic waste. Because this local industry is currently focused on new carbon neutrality commitments and goals for addressing their plastic footprint, this represents a unique opportunity for them.
Creating the Rio Jaguar Project
The upfront funding from ClimeCo’s partnering company can be used to build a small recycling facility and hire San Maya residents to collect, measure, sort, and record the recovered plastic – thus creating the Rio Jaguar Project. From the project’s plastic collection and recycling operations, ClimeCo would develop and register new plastic credits through Verra’s Plastic Waste Reduction Program. Each credit represents one tonne of recovered or recycled plastic, which upon issuance, a company can purchase to support frontline efforts tackling the plastic waste crisis.
Part of the agreement with our Rio Jaguar project’s industry partner is that they will receive a portion of the generated plastic credits, which can be used to offset part of their plastic footprint. ClimeCo will sell the remaining credits, and the proceeds can fund the purchase of a river trap to collect ocean-bound plastic debris, as well as the expansion of the San Maya recycling facility. As the area’s ecosystem gets restored, the Rio Jaguar project will move into phase 2 – ClimeCo providing capital to hire additional workers to plant thousands of mangrove seedlings.
Mangroves are very efficient at sequestering and storing carbon compared to their terrestrial counterparts, up to 10 times better. ClimeCo will develop and register carbon offsets through Verra’s Blue Carbon Conservation methodology from the new mangrove plantings. As part of our industry partner’s carbon neutrality program, they will purchase a portion of the mangrove-issued carbon offsets, which will be used to help address its manufacturing facility’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Conclusion and Potential Co-Benefits
Plastic credit projects can address various interrelated problems: ecosystem degradation, inadequate waste management, biodiversity loss, health and economic risks, and carbon-fueled climate change. These projects can also support a menu of UN Sustainable Development Goals, including:
- No Poverty
- Decent Work & Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
- Sustainable Cities & Communities
- Climate Action
- Life Below Water
- Partnerships for Goals
Success for these types of projects requires establishing working partnerships to the benefit of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the problems seen in this story are being replicated all over the globe, yet the efforts of government and philanthropy are not matching the scale of these problems. One key component is for private sector companies to use their vision and capital to initiate circular economics. The development of plastic credits and carbon offsets in this story gave our industrial partner the market-based financing mechanisms to deploy its capital and help create relationships to benefit its ESG programs. Plastic recovery and mangrove restoration provide the value to move a restoration and circular business economy forward. Partnerships will make it sustainable.
To learn more about plastic waste, Verra’s Plastic Waste Reduction Program, or discuss an idea for a project, please feel free to contact us. We would love to help you become part of a circular restoration project.
About the Author
Chris Parker has 20+ years of experience in energy and commodity markets, sustainability, conservation, and ESG. He leads ClimeCo’s plastic market program, which partners with projects worldwide to recover and recycle plastic waste. Prior to joining ClimeCo, Chris had been consulting and leading projects in both the corporate and environmental nonprofit sectors to create business solutions for a sustainable economy. Chris holds a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Finance & Investment Management from the University of Alabama. He loves to spend his free time surfing, climbing, fishing, and playing chess.