Industry leaders have endorsed a global action plan on plastic packaging production, use and reuse and recycling at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Fuente Waste Management World

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Over 40 industry leaders have endorsed a global action plan on plastic packaging production, use and reuse and recycling at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

The plan, laid out in a new report, The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action launched by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, would see global recycling rates for plastic packaging grow from 14% currently to 70%

The Report proposes solutions to address the likelihood of potentially more plastics than fish (by weight) in the ocean by 2050 and provides the global plastics industry with a transition strategy for better package design and increased recycling rates. The findings are:

According to the authors 20% of plastic packaging could be profitably re-used, for example by replacing single-use plastic bags with re-usable alternatives or designing innovative packaging models based on product refills

The study also claimed that a further 50% of plastic packaging could be profitably recycled if improvements are made to packaging design and after-use management systems. This could bring in an additional $90 to $140 per tonne of mixed plastics

However, without fundamental redesign and innovation, the authors said that the remaining 30% of plastic packaging (by weight) will never be recycled and the equivalent of 10 billion rubbish bags per year will be destined to landfill or incineration

The plan is part of the New Plastics Economy initiative, which was launched in May 2016 as a result of Project MainStream, a multi-industry collaboration led by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The multi-stakeholder New Plastics Economy initiative brings together for the first time leading organizations representing every sector of the global plastics industry: chemical manufacturers, packaging and consumer goods producers, retailers, city authorities and recyclers, all working together towards a more effective global system for plastics.

“The New Plastics Economy initiative has attracted widespread support, and across the industry we are seeing strong initial momentum and alignment on the direction to take. The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action provides a clear plan for redesigning the global plastics system, paving the way for concerted action.” Commented Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“This could drive systemic change,” added Dominic Waughray, head of public-private partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum. “The plan puts innovation at the heart of a strategy that could shift the entire system while unlocking a billion dollar business opportunity. Alignment along value chains and between the public and private sector is key to this.”

Focus
The focus of the New Plastics Economy over the next year will be to bring about large-scale innovation.

The initiative will launch two global innovation challenges to kick-start the redesign of materials and packaging formats as well as begin to build a set of global common standards (a “Global Plastics Protocol”) for packaging design, concentrating initially on the most significant changes.

It will also improve recycling systems by delivering collaborative projects between companies and cities participating. To support the shift to “circular” design thinking, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and design firm IDEO are launching a new, publicly-available Circular Design Guide.

“Minor changes in material, format and treatment, in conjunction, can make the economics of recycling viable and take us into a positive spiral of higher yields, lower costs and better design. The result will be plastic that remains a valuable material before and after use,” said Martin R. Stuchtey, Professor for Resource Strategy and Management at Innsbruck University, who contributed to the report.

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