Chain of custody standard for plastics retrieved from the hydrosphere

The public DNV standard provides a best practice to certify the source and authenticity (Chain of Custody) of abandoned plastic and build trust in new products made from reclaimed plastic.

The problem of plastic garbage in our hydrosphere (oceans, rivers and lakes) is massive. Solving it requires ground-breaking technologies, significant efforts and resources.  Moreover, extracting the plastic from oceans and rivers is only the first step in addressing one of the biggest threats to our world’s waters. There are currently trillions of pieces of plastic in our oceans with an estimated 8 million pieces added every day. Success hinges on the ability to extract more plastic at a greater scale and higher speed.

The standard 

DNV’s Chain of Custody Standard for Plastics Retrieved in the Hydrosphere sets forth requirements to assure the traceability and integrity of reclaimed plastic from any body of water. The product certification provides proof of compliance.  Organizations can share with confidence the source of the material and that it has not been mixed with any other components after extraction from a specific location. 

The standard covers three main components:  

  • Material integrity: Material gathered from the specified body of water has not been mixed with material from other sources before being manufactured into a new product.  
  • Traceability: Location, integrity, mass and use of the plastic is made traceable from water to shore and as part of a new product.  
  • Systemic approach: Management system in place that enables full traceability of material characteristics along the supply chain

The standard has been developed in partnership with The Ocean Cleanup, who has been the first to apply it and seek certification for its reclaimed plastic from The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, the standard is public and can be followed by any organization retrieving plastic from the hydrosphere, i.e. oceans, rivers or lakes. 


  • Provide proof of your plastic’s source and authenticity (material integrity) certified by an independent party. 
  • Differentiate your reclaimed plastic from that of less serious players.
  • Allow anyone to trace the plastic back to its extraction site and view its onward journey. 
  • Create a level of transparency that enables customers to trust that their purchases really help make an ocean, river or lake cleaner from plastic waste. 

How to get certified?

When an organization has implemented the appropriate processes to meet the standard’s criteria and agreed scope for its extracted plastic, DNV as an independent third party can certify the plastic. This product certification provides proof that the reclaimed plastic comes from the specific body of water indicated, has not been mixed with other materials, and is the actual material used in a new product, if this is its final purpose. 

To trace the plastic’s source and assure material integrity, the scope covers the entire value chain and life cycle:

  • Harvest and Extraction
  • Transport and Sorting
  • Recycling and Testing
  • Manufacturing and Shipping

Based upon the location and value chain complexity, DNV auditors will mix physical audits, visual inspection and digital tools to collect the data needed to certify the traceability and authenticity of the reclaimed plastic.

Photo: The Ocean Cleanup