Ellen MacArthur Foundation Posts Limited Progress on ‘New Plastics Economy’

The shift from single-use plastic is not happening fast enough, according to a new report.

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment guides brands on rethinking plastic packaging and eradicating plastic pollution. The Global Commitment is led by the circular economy-focused nonprofit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program.

“This report shows encouraging progress towards the vision for a circular economy for plastic in some areas, particularly in the use of recycled plastic. But, going forward it will be crucial to also see major steps forward in rethinking what packaging is put on the market in the first place. We are calling on industry to rapidly increase efforts to reduce single-use packaging and eliminate packaging types that have no credible pathway to making recycling work in practice and at scale. We know industry cannot deliver the change alone, and we are calling on policymakers to put in place the enabling conditions, incentives and international framework to accelerate this transition,” said Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a statement.

The commitment launched in October 2018 and unifies more than 500 organizations including signatories like Burberry, Superdry, Asos and H&M Group, among others. Endorsing signatories include financial institutions, nonprofits and academia.

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The latest progress report was published Thursday. Progress is reported annually, indicating annual volumes of plastics production and use, and is made publicly available on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s web site.

In a past report for June 2019, on average around 60 percent of business signatories’ plastic packaging was reusable, recyclable or compostable today. Through the commitment, brands committed to making this 100 percent by 2025.

As with past reports, brand progress varied significantly. Some have measurably improved while others have shown little to no progress against quantitative targets.

While the use of recycled content is increasing, there remains a continued preference for single-use packaging. According to the report, recycled content in plastic packaging grew by 22 percent year-on-year, to a 6.2 percent average recycled content by weight in packaged goods and retail signatories. Comparatively, reusable packaging has barely made any gains — increasing only marginally from the prior year.

The report also showed that 31 percent of packaged goods and retail signatories — 18 in total — now have targets in place to reduce virgin plastic in packaging or reduce plastic packaging altogether.

In order to accelerate action, the organizations called on businesses to take bold action but also ultimately said governments will be the change-makers, reiterating that “voluntary action by industry alone cannot deliver change on the scale and at the pace needed.”

As signatories look to the next leg of improvement, substantial public commitments are being made, with signatories pledging $10 billion in investments.

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Year-End Status: Did Burberry, Superdry Fall Short on Plastic Pledges?

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