More commitments needed on plastics, warns campaigner

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/gavran333
©iStock/gavran333

Related tags: Plastic, Pollution, Coca-cola

Food and beverage companies must do more to tackle plastic pollution, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which campaigns to reduce global plastic pollution.

In the first update to its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment​ launched in October 2018, the group calls for a greater shift to reuse delivery models that reduce the need for single-use packaging.

More than 350 businesses, governments, and other organisations have signed up to the commitment, said the foundation, including more than 150 companies that are part of the plastic packaging value chain.

Businesses that sign the commitment aim to make sure that 100% of their plastic packaging is recyclable by 2025 and will publish annual data on their progress. 

Major firms disclose their plastic footprint for the first time

The foundation praised the efforts of 31 major companies so far, including Carrefour, Colgate Palmolive, Mars Inc, Nestlé, SC Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever. These groups all publicly revealed, some for the first time, their annual plastic packaging volumes, marking what the group calls an important step towards greater transparency in today’s plastic system.

Coca-Cola disclosed it produces three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year. Nestlé said it puts out 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging annually, with Unilever making 610,000 tonnes and Danone creating 750,000 tonnes.

But some companies that have signed up to the commitment have faced criticism for not publicly disclosing their plastic packaging footprint, such as Pepsi Co, H&M, L’Oréal, Walmart and Marks & Spencer.

‘Moving from commitment to action is crucial’

The foundation warned much more support was still needed to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging.

Sander Defruyt, from the foundation, 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 the 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 start now.”

The foundation also urged more food service companies to join the commitment. “We call on hospitality and food service companies such as take-away food chains, hotels, and airlines to join the Global Commitment and embark on a journey towards a circular economy for plastics. These industries represent significant volumes of single-use plastic packaging and are currently underrepresented in the Global Commitment.”

Highlights of the report:

  • Consumer goods companies and retailers commit to increase recycled content in their packaging to an average of 25% by 2025, compared with the current global average of just 2%.
  • Leading businesses and governments will end the use of problematic and unnecessary plastic – including PVC and single-use plastic straws and carrier bags – many of them by the end of this year.
  • 40 brands and retailers are piloting or expanding reuse and refill schemes.
  • Financial institutions with over $4 trillion in assets under management have endorsed the commitment.

 ​Signatories include:

  • Apple, Barilla, Tetra Pak, and L’OCCITANE en Provence, as well as the Government of Rwanda and the cities of Sáo Paulo (Brazil) and Ljubljana (Slovenia).
  • More than 150 businesses that are part of the plastic packaging value chain, jointly representing over 20% of all plastic packaging used globally, including many of the world’s leading consumer packaged goods companies, retailers, and plastic packaging producers
  • 16 governments across five continents and across national, regional, and city level.
  • 26 financial institutions with a combined $4.2 trillion worth of assets under management and six investors in total committing to invest about $ 275 million.
  • Leading institutions such as WWF, the World Economic Forum, the Consumer Goods Forum, and IUCN.
  • More than 50 academics, universities, and other educational or research organisations including MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, Michigan State University, and University College London.

Related topics: Market Trends

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