Industry to recycle 70% of plastic packaging

More than 40 industry leaders from around the world have endorsed a global action plan to dramatically increase the amount of plastic packaging that they reuse and recycle. Scientists have warned that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Companies such as Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Danone and Veolia announced in Davos yesterday that they have endorsed a global action plan on plastics production, use and after-use in an effort to product our oceans.

The action plan is based on a report The New Plastics: Catalysing Action, produced by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It commits companies to reuse and recycle 70 per cent of plastic packaging globally, up from today’s recycling rate of only 14 per cent.

The report’s authors revealed last year that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 unless serious steps are taken to reduce plastic waste.

According to the report, 20 per cent of plastic packaging could be profitably reused, for example by replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable alternatives or by designing innovative packaging models based on product refills.

A further 50 per cent of plastic packaging could be profitably recycled if improvements are made to packaging designs and systems for managing it after use.

The remaining 30 per cent of plastic packaging, equivalent to around 10 billion garbage bags per year, would have to undergo fundamental redesign and innovation, such as introducing recyclable and compostable materials.

Industry leaders have already taken individual steps to reduce their plastic footprint. For example, Unilever has committed to ensure that all its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The New Plastics Economy initiative brings together 40 leading organisations representing the entire global plastics industry, from chemical manufacturers to consumer goods, producers, retailers, city authorities and recyclers, to work together towards a more effective global system.

Over the next year or two, it will launch two global challenges to kick-start the redesign of materials and packaging formats, and also work to improve recycling systems by supporting collaborative projects between participating companies and cities.

“This could drive systemic change,” said Dominic Waughray, member of the executive committee of the World Economic Forum. “The plan puts innovation at the heart of a strategy that could shift the entire system while unlocking a billion dollar business opportunity.”


Image credit: Kevin Krejci, flickr

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