New global commitment report reveals progress towards eliminating plastic pollution

New global commitment report reveals progress towards eliminating plastic pollution

November 7, 2019
Press Release: UNEP

Published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), this latest report shows promising progress on two fronts which could prove important steps forward to a world without plastic pollution

The positive scale of global efforts to prevent plastic pollution has been revealed in a recent report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). This new annual report is being released 12 months after the launch of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which sets out a circular economy vision for plastic.

Launched in October 2018, the Global Commitment now has more than 400 organizations committed to eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging and undertaking innovations so that all plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable, as well as safely and easily circulated without becoming waste or pollution.

This report aims to provide an unprecedented level of transparency on how almost 200 businesses and governments are changing their plastic production and use to achieve this. It shows promising early progress.

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

“Around the world people are calling for businesses and governments to take action to stop plastic pollution,” said, Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “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.”

Examples of corporate progress cited include: Unilever has announced it will reduce its use of virgin plastic in packaging by 50%; Mars, Incorporated said it will make reductions of 25% by 2025; and PepsiCo aims to reduce the use of virgin plastic in its beverage business by 20% by 2025.

Some of the most commonly identified problematic plastic items and materials are being eliminated at scale. For example, around 70% of relevant signatories are eliminating single-use straws, carrier bags and carbon black plastics, and around 80% are eliminating PVC from their packaging.

Beyond bans, signatories including governments such as Rwanda, the UK and Chile, and cities of Sao Paulo and Austin, to name a few, are putting in place a diverse set of policy measures ranging from public procurement and extended producer responsibility schemes to public awareness campaigns, fiscal measures, and incentives for research and development.

The 2019 Progress Report shows how leading businesses and governments are taking actions in such a systemic way, in doing so demonstrating this makes business and political sense

“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, in doing so demonstrating this makes business and political sense. The benefits represent a huge opportunity, and the concerted approach leaves no excuses not to act,” added Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director.

“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 continued.

Analysis carried out for the report shows that on average 60% of business signatories’ plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable today. Through the Global Commitment they have committed to make this 100% by 2025.

Packaged goods and retail signatories have pledged to increase recycled plastic in packaging more than fivefold, from 4% to 22%, by 2025. The signatories’ total demand for recycled content in packaging by 2025 will be more than 5 million tons annually, equivalent to keeping 25 million barrels of oil in the ground every year.

While significant investments are being made to achieve these targets, more major investment, innovation, and transformation programmes need to be developed, and more businesses and governments are urged to join the Global Commitment to ensure impact can be made at scale.

Through innovation, product and supply chain redesign, and new business models, companies may reduce their overall plastic packaging use, while unlocking new economic opportunities

Tackling plastic waste and pollution means moving beyond recycling and the elimination of only the most commonly identified problematic packaging. Through innovation, product and supply chain redesign, and new business models, companies may reduce their overall plastic packaging use, while unlocking new economic opportunities.

Additional examples include: plastics producer Indorama Ventures has pledged to invest US$1.5 billion towards achieving its target of producing 750,000 tons of recycled PET per annum by 2025; and the UK Government is mobilizing approximately £3 billion towards improving local collection and recycling infrastructure and packaging innovation through public-private finance initiatives. In addition, recycling companies that have signed the Global Commitment have committed to collectively quadruple the amount of recycled plastics they produce by 2025.

While more than 40 signatory companies are piloting re-use schemes, currently less than 2% of plastic packaging in the signatory group is re-usable, indicating a significant but underexplored opportunity. Analysis by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has shown that replacing just 20% of single-use plastic packaging with re-usable alternatives offers an opportunity worth at least US$10 billion. In addition, government signatories are supporting re-use schemes in various ways, including through public awareness campaigns and education, extended producer responsibility or public-private collaboration.

The New Plastics Economy will publish the next Global Commitment progress report in Autumn 2020, and every year following up to 2025.

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2020 will take place at Cologne Messe, Germany, on Tuesday 16 June and Wednesday 17 June. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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