(This is part of the series for 7 Main Areas of Focus to Transform the Plastic Crisis)
Measuring is a category of it’s own. It applies to everything across the board. What you can measure you can change.
While working on the UN Report on effectiveness of Voluntary Commitments — there were over 580 commitments that we looked into and almost all of them had one thing in common: there were no public announcements or metrics available to see if there had been any progress with any of the efforts. As a result, after all the UN, and independent, commitments made — we’re all still creating more plastic waste than we can handle and much of it is still ending up in the ocean. We simply cannot improve what we’re not measuring.
How do you measure plastics?
How do you measure plastics and how much of it are you actually putting out, capturing, recycling etc.
This is a complex question, though it can be simplified. Keep it simple and basic to begin. It won’t always be easy to keep track and update, and the target is not “ease” but simplicity. Keep it simple so it is easy to understand and follow for any person visiting your website. Once the process is established then introduce additional variables to look at impact, effort, cost adjustments, and ratios. To get started it’s important to begin with clearly defining what problem you’re tackling and what about it you want to change/solve.
First thing first — start with your problem statement. Is there a specific issue that you are aware of — too much plastic waste washing up on the shores — or is there something more generic you’re targeting to overcome — reduce the amount of waste landfilled from your facilities? Or maybe it’s that you know too much single-use plastics are being purchased and used in your company’s operations?
Then make a declaration, as a company, a building, a city, a plant etc. Be sure that the declaration is as specific as possible. What area will you be targeting first? Buildings, coastlines, businesses, in water activities, beach clean-ups, marine operations, etc.
Who will be undertaking the oversight and management of the project?
Answering these questions as specifically as possible will help you setup any measurement systems you need internally with your company, building or even municipality. Most of the data is readily available and measurable.
Specify Target Action
What is your goal? Do you want to incentivize creating/developing/using alternative products? Create legislation to ban a certain type of plastic? Create a program to clean-up plastic waste from waterways? Develop campaigns and activities to raise awareness of the importance of using publicly available services? All of the above?
Is there a specific type of plastic that you’re targeting? For instance — all single-use, a specific type. Are you targeting the clean-up or changing the “use” of plastic — in other words, will you be looking at how much plastic is bought or waste is diverted from the environment?
What duration are you targeting to make the change?
What type of impact are you looking to make? Reduce waste by X%, Ban ALL single-use plastics in 3 years, divert X% of waste from landfill annually, implement a collection technology to capture 2000 pounds per month, etc.
Is your intention to have this solution implemented in just one location or replicated in multiple locations?
Do you have the funding available or is this something that will need to be raised? What’s the target available budget?
Specify required collaborations:
Are there other parties that you will need to obtain collaboration from? For instance, if working to set a ban — collaboration from the municipalities or state government will be required. Or if you’re working to install a clean-up technology collaboration with the developers and also the location owners will be key to the program’s success.
Is the action you’re looking to take already implemented somewhere else? If so, is there a possibility for collaboration and/or partnership? This question helps determine the speed in which the change can be implemented.
Set your metrics:
What milestones can you see as being reasonable to achieve in every 6 month period?
Setup a timeline place your overall achievement as the end point and work your milestones backwards from that to start. Consider the available resources, how many people will be required to achieve the target.
Revisit your set budget and target impact — take the timeline and any variable that might have an impact on cost into account.
Become a Trendsetter Report it — put out a newsletter — create a page on your website that clearly shows the metrics you’ve chosen as best fits your situation and commitment. The major companies that are really making a dent in the problem report their impact practically live — Plastic Bank, Mr. Trashwheel, Elkay Water Filtration systems etc. Plastic pollution is a serious issue requiring serious commitments. Every effort made is doubled in impact through reporting and communication — even IF the targeted solution doesn’t work as intended, there is always a silver lining. At a minimum, reporting signals the dedication and intention of the person or organization undertaking the action. Ideally, it creates an organic list of lessons learned, as well as, a checklist of proven activities.
Be a Future Player — Become a Collaborator — Consider setting up a collaboration platform with similar organizations — even if they’re competitors in the marketplace, to help implement your solution in their locations. They can benefit from all your lessons learned, and you and the world benefit from bringing everybody closer to making a dent on the issue. Also, consider collaborating with non-profits who can augment your goal and objective. 4Ocean is a powerful partner to help with cleaning-up coastlines if you’re focused on diverting waste from landfills. Plastic Pollution Coalition can help form meaningful partnerships and collaborations with other committed and like-minded companies or organizations.
Future Business is Transparency and Vulnerability — The importance here lies in being transparent and open about the challenges. This is a global issue — #wereallinthistogether — and we all know there are many unknowns. One solution that might have worked for one person might not work for another. Being open about what works can also help form unlikely partnerships. What seems to be impossible to surpass for some might be a very easy “fix” for others. For instance, a government collaboration with a sector can help create incentives to procure “green” products. Plus, any challenge that might cause a setback in the original goal or target, is a lessons learned for all to follow — it is a bigger contribution to the overall cause than straight up implementing something without covering all grounds.
For any support in any of these topics please reach-out. We’d be happy to work with you to support moving your operations and company to a more circular economy while measuring and reporting achievements using our dashboards.