Empowering communities: A path toward a plastic-free future

A plastic bottle litters a beach.

A crescendo of the global call to action against plastic pollution accompanies Earth Day in 2024. The urgency to tackle this issue is unprecedented, with plastic waste clogging our oceans, endangering wildlife and threatening biodiversity and human health, creating material risks for businesses and the global economy. Alongside many other public, private and civil society organizations and communities working to reduce the negative impacts of plastic use, Pact is committed to a community-centered just transition toward a plastic-free future.

The Global Plastic Pollution Treaty movement, led by the U.N. Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, offers a promising pathway to address this crisis. This treaty aims to establish legally binding regulations governing plastic production, reuse and disposal globally. It represents a crucial step toward harmonizing efforts and holding both governments and businesses accountable for their plastic footprint.

Our commitment to ending plastic waste
Aligned with the objectives of the Global Plastic Pollution Treaty, Pact is dedicated to fostering sustainability and minimizing social and environmental harm. Our Environmental and Social Sustainability Policy underscores our commitment to supporting businesses, civil society organizations and communities in their efforts to transform the global relationship with single-use plastics.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of tackling plastic pollution, we have implemented internal plastic reduction initiatives like the Plastic Waste Reduction Initiative. Borne out of a materiality assessment conducted in 2021, this initiative aims to measure, document and significantly reduce Pact's global plastic footprint. Through staff engagement and changes to internal waste practices, we aim to lead by example and inspire meaningful change.

What we've done
The Plastic Waste Reduction Initiative is more than just a vision; it's a tangible reality. Through careful planning and execution, we designed an internal initiative that includes the establishment of a Plastic Reduction Working Group, the initiation of plastic waste reduction pilot programs in Pact country offices (Ukraine, Columbia, Thailand), and development of a waste audit system. These initiatives not only reduce our organization's environmental impact but also foster a culture of environmental stewardship among our staff.

Beyond internal initiatives, we empower communities to take charge of their plastic waste management. By leveraging our global presence and partnerships, we facilitate community engagement in plastic recycling, provide technical assistance to local entrepreneurs and strengthen the recycling supply chain. Through targeted interventions and capacity building, we aim to create plastic waste-free communities while unlocking economic opportunities for local enterprises. 

The three-year Swan Yi III project in Myanmar, funded by Coca-Cola Foundation, is a great example of how Pact implements integrated, community-centered approaches and our impact in catalyzing community-based solid waste management and plastic waste reduction, through improved governance, capacity development, green enterprise building and women and community empowerment. The program included campaigns to raise community awareness about the importance of waste management and the negative impacts of plastic on the environment, as well as community cleanup and ‘No Plastic’ events. Impact highlights of the Swan YI III project improving waste management practices through community participation component include:

*Development of 10 Community Waste Management Committees (CMWC) with 180 members.
*77 community clean-up campaigns conducted under CWMC leadership.
*223 plastic bottle collection campaigns resulting in the collection of 5,560 plastic bottles, resold at the plastic recycling market.
*Support for ‘waste to gold’ women-owned recycled products businesses.

What we can do
One way we can achieve plastic use reduction is by assisting companies in decreasing their reliance on plastics within their supply chains, where the interface with local communities and ecological landscapes is strongest. This assistance aligns with their targets for plastic reduction and environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, as well as supports the Sustainable Development Goals. By focusing on the interconnectedness of plastics, supply chains, communities, ecosystem services and health, Pact can help companies and communities to address this challenge effectively.

Additionally, we can help companies mitigate ESG-related risks by collaborating with local communities and preserving the biological ecosystems upon which their supply chains depend. This involves sourcing materials sustainably and empowering communities to play a more significant role in managing plastic use. This can foster a more sustainable and resilient approach to plastic use while also benefiting communities.

We can also help communities to identify, prioritize, design, fund and implement solutions and livelihoods opportunities to address the challenges of plastic waste. With each of our projects, we co-create with communities to develop environmentally sound and financially sustainable solutions that can be scaled and replicated. 

A call to action
We commemorate Earth Day with a renewed commitment to end plastic waste. Together, we have the collective power to drive systemic change, protect our planet and safeguard future generations. Join us in our mission to turn the tide against plastic pollution and create a more sustainable world for all.

Pact actively engages with forward-thinking foundations, private and public sector organizations, and other funding institutions to create positive impact. We welcome inquiries to explore collaboration on how Pact can support your organization in its efforts to contribute to reducing the global plastic footprint.