Mass Balance: A Great Way to Scale Up Sustainability

Everybody’s doing it. (Well, almost everybody.)

Let’s talk about plastic recycling. And an “exciting” accounting principle.

First, good news: Advanced recycling technologies have created a huge new opportunity to dramatically increase the types and amount of plastic that can be recycled.

These technologies complement today’s traditional “mechanical” recycling technologies that grind up and melt bottles, containers and bags.

Advanced recycling breaks down used plastic to its molecular level, creating building block raw materials that can be remade into plastic that performs like new.

But this raises a question.

If you mix those recycled building block materials with raw materials made from traditional resources… and then make plastic…
how do we keep track of the amount of
recycled material in the new plastic?

The Answer....

The same way other companies keep track for a wide diversity of products. Cocoa. Renewable energy. Orange juice. Coconut oil. Forestry. And more.

The answer goes by the exciting accounting term: “mass balance.”

Basically, the mass balance approach measures the amount of plastic building block materials made from advanced recycling that are being mixed with traditional materials to create new products.

Using this approach, companies can help track and communicate the use of materials derived from advanced recycling in their finished products. 

And third-party organizations certify those claims.

For an accounting principle, mass balance is quite popular.

As the Rainforest Alliance says, “All major international sustainability initiatives use mass balance in one form or another.”

What’s “exciting” about mass balance is how it incentivizes the use of recycled content over traditional raw material sources, such as oil or natural gas.

By making it easier to account for the sources of used plastic, more companies can verify that they’re contributing to sustainability and the circular economy for plastic.

In other words, it’s a great way to scale up sustainability. All good. Who said accounting can’t be exciting?

Fact Sheets

The following series provides helpful resources covering various topics, offering valuable insights into the advancements and initiatives driving sustainable change.


Find out what’s happening in the industry and how we’re making sustainable change.