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Waste Not
New Reports Reveal Details, Impacts of Efforts To Tackle Plastic Waste and Pollution

In the first New Plastics Economy Global Commitment report, major companies publish data on their annual plastic packaging volumes, many for the first time; while Closed Loop Partners’ 2018 Impact Report measures the effect their investments are having on reducing emissions, diverting valuable commodities from landfill and creating jobs.

First New Plastics Economy Global Commitment report offers new level of transparency on ongoing efforts

Details of how brands, governments and other organizations are tackling plastic pollution around the world have been set out side by side for the first time, thanks to a new report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)’s New Plastics Economy initiative, in collaboration with UN Environment. The report follows the October 2018 launch of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which laid out an action plan to stop plastic waste and pollution at the source through application of circular economy principles.

By providing previously unpublished data and setting out commitments side by side, this report offers a new level of transparency about today’s plastic system and efforts to stop plastic waste and pollution.

More than 250 organizations, representing every part of the plastics system, signed the commitment when it was launched in collaboration in October. Since then, the number of signatories has risen to more than 350 and now includes Barilla, Tetra Pak and L’OCCITANE en provence; as well as the Government of Rwanda, and the cities of São Paulo (Brazil) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Financial institutions with over US$4 trillion in assets under management have endorsed the commitment.

The Global Commitment aims to create ‘a new normal’ for plastic packaging, with signatories committing to:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models

  • Innovate to ensure 100 percent of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025

  • Circulate the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the volumes of plastic reused or recycled into new packaging

As EMF points out, the decision by more than 30 companies to publicly disclose their annual plastic packaging volumes in the report is an important step towards greater transparency, but the Foundation is now urging all companies that make and use plastics to disclose their plastics footprint.

The report shows welcome progress in increasing the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging, and the phasing out of non-recyclable materials. The recycled content targets for plastic in packaging jointly represent 5 million tonnes by 2025.

This is the biggest-ever commitment to use recycled plastics in packaging and provides clear demand for increased investment in high-quality recycling and will result in a significant reduction in production of virgin plastics.

However, while improving recycling is crucial, we cannot recycle our way out of the plastics issues we currently face. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority. Reuse

models need to be applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging. All of this is an explicit part of the Global Commitment vision, endorsed by all 350+ signatories.

New Plastics Economy lead Sander Defruyt said: “The targets and action plans set out in this report are a significant step forward compared with the pace of change of past decades. However, they are still far from truly matching the scale of the problem, particularly when it comes to elimination of unnecessary items and innovation towards reuse models. Ambition levels must continue to rise to make real strides in addressing global plastic pollution by 2025, and moving from commitment to action is crucial. Major investments, innovations, and transformation programmes need to be started now, to realise the impact by 2025.”

Lisa Svensson, Coordinator of the Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Branch at UN Environment, said: “UN Environment is delighted to be working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to help turn the tide on plastic pollution. Within just a few months of the launch of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment we have seen important progress. The Foundation's work to create a circular economy for plastic aligns very well with our Clean Seas campaign, which has become the biggest global compact addressing marine plastic.”

National-level efforts to put the Global Commitment’s vision into practice include a growing network of Plastic Pacts. These collaborations between government, NGOs, and businesses focus on creating country-specific circular economy solutions to plastics waste. The UK launched the first Plastics Pact in April 2018 and the French pact was launched last month. The Chilean government has announced plans to do the same later this year. All countries are signatories to the Global Commitment.

As an endorser of the Global Commitment, the World Economic Forum on Monday (March 11) launched the Global Plastics Action Partnership in Indonesia.

EMF says the New Plastics Economy will publish a further report on signatory progress in Autumn 2019, and every year following.

Closed Loop Partners releases latest impact report

Image credit: Closed Loop Partners

Meanwhile, Closed Loop Partners (CLP) — home of the Closed Loop Fund and Closed Loop Ventures — today released its 2018 impact report. The fourth annual report comes at a time when CEOs of major consumer goods companies are recognizing — as seen through burgeoning engagement in initiatives such as the New Plastics Economy — that the development of circular supply chains will reduce manufacturing costs and provide consumers with more sustainable products; and more and more major consumer goods companies are establishing strategies to that effect.

“Recycling infrastructure has not kept up with the velocity of packaging innovation,” John Caturano, Senior Sustainability Manager of Packaging at Nestlé, says in the report. “Closed Loop Fund is helping companies like Nestlé remedy this with progressive investments that add more infrastructure in North America, so our consumers can recycle our packages, and we can use recycled content in our packages.”

From the beginning, CLP has worked to connect municipalities, companies and investors in an effort to build stronger relationships and accelerate the creation of circular supply chains. Along with corporates, mayors of major municipalities are also recognizing that local recycling and circular infrastructure are vital for the health and wellbeing of their cities, as they reduce municipal disposal budgets, generate revenue and drive local manufacturing and job creation.

At the close of 2018, CLP’s portfolio included 36 investments — 21 investments from the Closed Loop Fund and 15 investments from Closed Loop Ventures. The Impact Report measures the effect these investments are having on reducing GHG emissions, diverting valuable commodities from landfill and back into circular supply chains, and creating jobs. According to the report, for every dollar invested to date:

  • $4 of co-investment was generated from private and public sources

  • $1 economic benefit was generated for communities

  • 300 pounds of recyclables were recovered and returned to a supply chain, and

  • 900 pounds of CO2E GHG emissions were avoided.

In 2018, CLP launched the Center for the Circular Economy (CCE), its advisory services group. One of CCE’s first initiatives, The NextGen Consortium — a pre-competitive collaboration among consumer brands including Starbucks, McDonald’s, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Wendy’s and Nestlé, committed to advancing food-service packaging solutions — recently named 12 winning solutions to its NextGen Cup Challenge, which could all help eliminate coffee cup waste.

In addition to the Cup Challenge, CLP also partnered with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition on the Flexpack Recovery Innovation Challenge, a solution search for multilayer flexible film packaging, a plastic type not currently recycled in most markets. At the launch of the Challenge, Amazon announced a $10 million investment into the Closed Loop Fund, to support the improvement of recycling infrastructure across the US.

“Amazon is committed to being part of the circular economy, and our investment in Closed Loop Fund is one way we are working to increase ease and access of recycling options,” said Terese Kietzer, Amazon’s Senior Manager of Sustainability Services. “These investments will not only divert millions of pounds from landfills, but will also help support local communities and preserve our natural resources. We are proud to support the Closed Loop Fund’s mission to bring better recycling infrastructure to millions of households across the country.”