Climate Action

Ellen McArthur Foundation publishes new progress report on plastic use

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has released it’s 2020 Progress Report on the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

  • 10 November 2020
  • Eleanor Macmillan-Fox

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has released it’s 2020 Progress Report on the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

The recent New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress Report, published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has found some progress in the recycled content of plastic packaging. But, limited progress in increasing the recyclability of plastic packaging.

The Commitment is an initiative run in partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme. It unites 250+ businesses involved in plastic packaging and 20 governments across five continents, behind a vision of changing how we “produce, use, and reuse plastic”.

The signatories make up over 20% of the plastic packaging market. According to the commitment they are working to: “eliminate the plastic items we don’t need; innovate so all plastic we do need is designed to be safely reused, recycled, or composted; and circulate everything we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.”

The report has analysed the 2019 data of signatories and compared it with the 2018 baseline, in order to track their progress. The individual improvement of well-known businesses such as L’Oréal, PepsiCo, Walmart, H&M and Unilever can be seen here.

The report states that there has been progress in recycled content of plastic packaging. It states that recycled content “grew by 22% year on year, showing an encouraging trajectory towards 2025 post-consumer recycled  content (PCR) targets.”

Another area of general improvement is the phase out of 'problematic' items, for instance single-use plastic bags and straws, PS and PVC packaging and undetectable carbon black pigments.

The report found “31% of packaged goods and retail signatories…have targets in place to reduce virgin plastic in packaging or reduce plastic packaging altogether. A further 37% indicated they are looking into establishing them.”

Despite this good progress, the reports notes that there is still room for improvement in some areas, stating that “there is a significant task at hand to meet the target of 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable [plastic packaging] by 2025.”

Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: "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."

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is calling on businesses to “take bold action on packaging types that are not recyclable today” and “set ambitious reduction targets”. It is also requesting that Governments “establish policies and mechanisms, that provide dedicated and stable funding for collection and sorting…without which recycling is unlikely to ever scale.” As well as “set a global direction and create an international framework for action…building on the vision for a circular economy for plastics.”

For more discussion on how industries can transition towards a more sustainable future, join us for the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2020. Register for free here.