A year on from the commencement of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, the number of organisations committing to improving the circular economy if plastics has reached 400.
Launched in October 2018, with more than 250 signatories initially, the global commitment looks at steps to improve the reuse and resource recovery of plastic materials.
The scale of global efforts so far, was revealed in a progress report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The annual report aims to provide a level of transparency on how hundreds of businesses and governments are changing their plastic production and use to achieve goals to reduce plastic pollution.
The goals include eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging, and undertaking innovations so that all plastic packaging is 100 per cent reusable, recyclable, or compostable, as well as safely and easily circulated without becoming waste or pollution.
New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Sander Defruyt said that around the world people are calling for businesses and governments to take action to stop plastic pollution.
“Leading businesses and governments stepped forward by signing the Global Commitment and we can now see promising early progress. This includes major commitments to reduce the use of virgin plastic, the introduction of reuse pilot projects, and unprecedented demand for recycled plastic in packaging.
“But there is a long way to go and it is crucial these efforts are accelerated and scaled, and more businesses and governments take action to eliminate plastic pollution at the source,” Defruyt said.
Examples of corporate progress cited include Unilever announcing it will reduce its use of virgin plastic in packaging by 50 per cent; Mars, Incorporated committing to make reductions of 25 per cent by 2025; and PepsiCo aiming to reduce the use of virgin plastic in its beverage business by 20 per cent by 2025.
Some of the most commonly identified problematic plastic items and materials are being eliminated at scale. For example, about 70 per cent of relevant signatories are eliminating single-use straws, carrier bags and carbon black plastics, and around 80 per cent are eliminating PVC from their packaging.
Analysis carried out for the report shows that on average 60 per cent of business signatories’ plastic packaging is currently reusable, recyclable or compostable. Through the Global Commitment these signatories have committed to make this 100 per cent by 2025.
UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said addressing plastic pollution requires a fundamental system shift from a linear to a circular economy for plastic, which is at the core of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.
“The 2019 Progress Report shows how leading businesses and governments are taking actions in such a systemic way, thus demonstrating this makes business and political sense. The benefits represent a huge opportunity, and the concerted approach leaves no excuses not to act.
“We need all actors to work together in the plastic pollution crises: UN Environment Programme calls on all relevant businesses and governments to join the Global Commitment to fight against plastic pollution as part of the implementation plan ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’,” Andersen said.
The report shows that signatories are beginning to set explicit targets to reduce virgin plastic consumption in absolute terms. Signatories’ efforts on elimination, reuse, recycled content, and substitution are driving a decoupling from finite resources.
Packaged goods and retail signatories have pledged to increase recycled plastic in packaging more than five-fold, from four to 22 per cent, by 2025. The signatories’ total demand for recycled content in packaging by 2025 will be more than 5 million tonnes annually – equivalent to keeping 25 million barrels of oil in the ground every year.
The New Plastics Economy will publish the next Global Commitment progress report in Autumn 2020, and every year following up to 2025.