Key target aimed at tackling plastic pollution set to be missed

Plastic pollution

The commitment to use only reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025 will likely not be met, according to the latest New Plastics Economy Global Commitment progress report.

Measurable progress is being made against the Global Commitment, but the use of flexible packaging and a lack of investment in collection and recycling infrastructure means the 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging by 2025 target is becoming unattainable for most signatory businesses, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says.

The 2022 Global Commitment progress report – produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme – also highlights the use of recycled content in plastic packaging continues to rise strongly.

As well as that over half of the business signatories have cut their use of virgin plastics since 2018, but overall use among the group increased in 2021 back to 2018 levels and the share of plastic packaging that is reusable decreased slightly to an average of 1.2%.

Four years after launching the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, the 2022 annual report shows progress varies across the signatory group, the Foundation says.

The latest findings demonstrate the need to urgently ramp up efforts – both from businesses and governments.

According to the report, the share of post-consumer recycled content has risen from 4.8% in 2018 to 10.0% in 2021. Whilst it took decades for businesses to hit the 5% mark, signatories to the Global Commitment doubled it to 10% in just three years.

Since 2018, more than half – 59% – of brands and retailers have reduced their use of virgin plastics. However, last year, increases by some of the biggest users of plastic packaging resulted in an overall rise of 2.5%, reversing the falls seen in 2019 and 2020.

The reason some businesses have not hit peak virgin plastic is due to increases in their total plastic packaging use, the Foundation says.

Around the globe, government support for an international, legally binding instrument to tackle the crisis continues to grow, the Foundation says; however, a significant acceleration of policy efforts is needed to help address the problem and transition towards a circular economy for plastics.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Initiative Lead, Sander Defruyt, said: “The Global Commitment continues to provide unprecedented transparency on how major businesses are addressing the plastic pollution crisis. The latest findings demonstrate the need to urgently ramp up efforts – both from businesses and governments.

“Credible, ambitious plans are needed from businesses to scale reuse, to deal with the issue of flexible packaging and to reduce the need for single-use packaging. Governments must take action to help accelerate progress.

“In parallel, we must work towards establishing an ambitious global treaty to end plastic pollution. Organisations such as the recently launched Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty – convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WWF – are here to help governments grasp this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

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