There is a particular statistic known to many of us throughout the industry that shocks us each and every time - by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans. This critical situation has spurred 40 industry leaders to outline a global strategy to minimise plastic production, use and after-use. An action plan has been presented in 'The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action' at a new study by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with analytical support from SYSTEMIQ. It is hoped that this strong collaboration could reduce plastic production and increase recycling for 70% of all global plastic packaging which today’s figure just stands at 14%. The remaining 30% of plastic packaging, equivalent to 10 billion rubbish bags per year, needs fundamental redesign and innovation. In this initiative, industry experts have thought about how a solution could be achieved.
The project has been supported by a range of businesses along the sustainable supply chain from chemical manufacturers to consumer goods producers, retailers, city authorities and recyclers. Larger corporatations that have also become involved are The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, Unilever to name just a few. The report provides a clear transition strategy for the global plastics industry to design better packaging, increase recycling rates, and introduce new models for making better use of packaging. It finds that 20% of plastic packaging could be profitably re-used. For example, by replacing single-use plastic bags with re-usable alternatives, or by designing innovative packaging models based on product refills. A further 50% of plastic packaging could be profitably recycled if improvements are made to packaging design and systems for managing it after use.
Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum said: "This could drive systemic change. The plan puts innovation at the heart of a strategy that could shift the entire system while unlocking a billion dollar business opportunity. Alignment along value chains and between the public and private sector is key to this."
The focus of the New Plastics Economy over the next year will be bringing about wide scale innovation. The initiative will launch two global innovation challenges to kick-start the redesign of materials and packaging formats, and begin building a set of global common standards (a ‘Global Plastics Protocol’) for packaging design and initially concentrating on the most impactful changes. It will also improve recycling systems by delivering collaborative projects between participant companies and cities. To support the shift to “circular” design thinking and systems perspectives and to inspire innovators, entrepreneurs and designers, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO are launching a new, publicly available ‘circular design guide’ at Davos this month.
A plan has been put together over the next year to encourage wide scale innovation. Two global innovation challenges will outlined to redesign materials and packaging formats to begin forming a set of global standards. This is hoped to improve recycling systems by delivering collaborative projects between participant companies and cities and move towards a circular economy.
"The New Plastics Economy initiative has attracted widespread support, and across the industry we are seeing strong initial momentum and alignment on the direction to take. The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action provides a clear plan for redesigning the global plastics system, paving the way for concerted action," accprding to Dame Ellen MacArthur ( @ ) Foudner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Without fundamental redesign and innovation, the remaining 30% of plastic packaging (by weight) will never be recycled and will continue to destine the equivalent of 10 billion rubbish bags per year to landfill sites or incinerators. Innovation in packaging design, recyclable and compostable materials, and reprocessing technologies are all required to move this challenging segment forward.
Download the full report here.
For further plastic initiatives taking place in the industry you might want to read: