The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has announced the publication of its 2021 progress report for the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment being run in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme. Key insights identified by the report include that global production of virgin plastic seems to have peaked for the signatory brands and retailers, and the production volumes are expected to fall faster in the coming years. It notes that progress towards the set goals have “largely been driven by recycling, but that is not enough to solve plastic pollution – much more focus is urgently needed on eliminating single-use packaging.” The report also recognizes that there is growing support for creation of a global agreement on plastic pollution “recognizing voluntary initiatives alone will not be enough.”
Looking at the individual progress reported by some of the largest signatories including Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever, there are still significant improvements that need to be taken within the next years to achieve the targets set for 2025. The report notes that while more reuse pilots have been launched by signatories, many of the companies do not appear to be testing reuse models. The share of reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging has also only increased marginally by less than 1% over the previous year. First launched in 2018 (FPF reported), the Global Commitment aims “to eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source” through partnerships with over 500 organizations. Companies representing over 20% of global plastic packaging production are signatories to the targets.
In a separate series of recent national updates, it was reported that Australia is significantly off track to meet a target it set for itself to achieve 70 % recycling or composting of plastic packaging by 2025. Last year the country only managed to achieve 16 % recovery despite more than half of the packaging in the country found to be easily recoverable. A report issued by a trade association for the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry in the US also found that the cumulative amount of PET being recycling is increasing. However, the overall collection rate of PET in the country decreased by 2.3 % over the past year, which resulted in a recycling rate for PET plastic bottles of 26.6 % meaning a 1.3 % decrease from the previous year.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (November 2021). “The Global Commitment 2021 Progress Report.”
Caitlin Cassidy (November 19, 2021). “‘Drowning’ in waste: Australia recycled just 16% of plastic packaging last year.” The Guardian
Packaging News (November 19, 2021). “UN and Ellen MacArthur Foundation expect virgin plastic use to fall.”
Circular Online (November 16, 2021). “ ‘We won’t recycle our way out of plastic pollution’ – Dame Ellen MacArthur.”