Industry Backs Plan to Recycle 70 Percent of Plastic Packaging Waste Globally

More than 40 industry leaders have endorsed a new action plan to tackle global plastic issues, and have begun working together to create a more effective global system for plastics.

The action plan is presented in “The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action”, a new study by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with analytical support from SystemiQ, which reveals that concerted action by industry could result in reuse and recycling of 70 percent of all global plastic packaging, up from today‘s recycling rate of just 14 percent. Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum, commented: “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.“

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 percent 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 percent of plastic packaging could be profitably recycled if improvements are made to packaging design and systems for managing it after use. Without fundamental redesign and innovation, the remaining 30 percent of plastic packaging (by weight) will never be recycled and will continue to destine the equivalent of 10 billion garbage bags per year to landfill or incineration. Innovation in packaging design, recyclable and compostable materials, and reprocessing technologies are likely all required to move this challenging segment forward.

A strong initial momentum

The New Plastics Economy initiative brings together more than 40 leading organizations 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. According to Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the New Plastics Economy initiative has almost attracted widespread support: “Across the industry we are seeing strong initial momentum and alignment on the direction to take.“ According to her opinion, the New Plastics Economy is a “catalysing action that provides a clear plan for redesigning the global plastics system, paving the way for concerted action“.

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, concentrating initially on the most impactful changes. It will also improve recycling systems by delivering collaborative projects between participant companies and cities.

Greenwashing or ambitious?

The “Deutsche Umwelthilfe” (German Environment Aid) criticizes the initiative as Greenwashing, serving to prevent effective laws for avoidance of plastic waste and to deviate from the specific destruction of a ressource efficient multiple use system. According to DUH, the verbalized aims of environmental protection are all the same without obligation, lack a concrete time frame and show great disproportion to the real entrepreneurship.

On contrary, the European Plastics Converters (EuPC) Association, representing over 50.000 plastics converting companies in Europe, welcomes the initiative as very ambitious, defining an “effective after-use plastics economy“ to reduce plastics leakage into the environment and decouple from fossil feedstocks. EuPC looks forward to closely collaborating both with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and trade and consumer associations to foster an informed education on waste.
Establishing a unique supply chain

However, almost one year ago a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material, worth 80 to 120 billion US-Dollar annually, is lost to the economy after the first use. Challenged by that issue, Procter & Gamble created the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent beach plastic. The first 150,000 bottles will be available in France this summer by consumers at Carrefour, one of the world’s leading retailers. Additionally, P&G announced that in Europe by end of 2018 more than half a billion bottles per year will include up to 25 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. The project will require a supply of 2,600 tons of recycled plastic every year.

According to P&G, this will be the world’s largest production run of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled beach plastic. And will be a first major step in establishing a unique supply chain that involves the support of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of NGOs collecting plastic waste found on beaches. Lisa Jennings, Vice President, Head & Shoulders and Global Hair Care Sustainability Leader at Procter & Gamble, is convinced: “We felt that the leading shampoo brand in sales should lead in sustainability innovation and know that when we do this, it encourages the entire industry to do the same.”

The full report on “The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action“ is available under

Photo: Harald Heinritz /

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