Reliance on virgin raw materials to produce products has a significant, often detrimental, impact on both ecosystems and communities. A widespread shift towards a more circular model is essential to secure a more sustainable future, yet there exist systematic barriers to the acquisition and sourcing of high-quality, secondary materials. To reduce waste and encourage the reuse of materials, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched the Cascading Materials Vision, a platform that seeks to enable a global system of efficient materials management.
By engaging stakeholders across the private and public sectors, the Cascading Materials Vision aims to minimize barriers. Businesses and organizations that have already signed on include American Chemistry Council, AMERIPEN, The Coca-Cola Company, DuPont, European Bioplastic Association, Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., The Materials Leadership Council (MLC), McCormick, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Ocean Conservancy, The Recycling Partnership and Target.
“We can quite literally do more with less simply by using materials more than once. With clear interest and willingness from industry to embrace this concept, WWF saw an incredible and imperative need to act,” said Erin Simon, Deputy Director of Packaging and Material Science at WWF. “By bringing stakeholders together onto one cohesive platform, the Cascading Materials Vision will help reduce the burden on our natural systems and enable creation of the global markets need to make quality secondary materials accessible and reliable.”
The companies and organizations that sign onto the Vision agree to abide by a set of guiding principles for decision-making that align materials management practices, allow for greater collaborations across industry and make it easier for companies to source secondary materials. The principles range from systems thinking to evaluating environmental impact and implementing flexible solutions that address current and future needs. By aligning with stakeholders and collaborators around a common vision of a responsible future, WWF hopes to use this framework to influence relevant sectors to develop achievable, sustainable and inclusive solutions that address the systematic issues that prevent the creation, trade and use of secondary materials.
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“While recycling feels universal, the truth is only half of Americans can recycle at home as easily as they can throw something away,” said Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership. “That inequality means that valuable materials are disposed, resulting in significant losses in potential GHG and water savings, at the same time depriving manufacturers across the globe of clean feedstock. The Recycling Partnership is pleased to collaborate with WWF in this far-reaching initiative to build a better system.”
“Scientists estimate that nearly 80 percent of plastic waste entering the ocean starts on land, so we need to think about locally appropriate and resilient land-based solutions to address this issue,” said Nicholas Mallos, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash-Free Seas Program. “The Cascading Materials Vision outlines critical principles to help drive better waste management, which will not only keep trash out of the marine environment, but would help extend the use-life and inherent value of materials.”
WWF and the flagship companies and nonprofit organizations that have signed onto on the Cascading Materials Vision are eager to grow the platform and work to create a reliable and innovative network grounded in maximizing environmental and social benefit and measuring impact.
“We are inspired by the number of companies who have already spoken up about the need for a global market of secondary materials,” Simon said. “With some of the world’s largest and leading companies already committed to the Cascading Materials Vision, we’re confident that this platform will create the catalyst needed to jumpstart the secondary materials market, protect our natural resources and meet the production demands of our growing population.”