On July 23, 2021, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Consumption Platform published a report highlighting the changes required to convert our current consumer infrastructure to a reuse-based consumer system. The first part of the report looks at how consumers, businesses, and the public sector can be involved in the transition away from single-use products while in the second half WEF presents a new Reuse Viability Framework. The framework is “designed to address some of the most essential questions that business leaders and public-sector decision-makers have raised about reuse.” With a focus on scalability and “market viability factors that determine [a business’] ability to succeed economically and operationally.”
Through analyzing the Reuse Viability Framework, the report presents “six dimensions of a truly successful, large-scale, system-wide reuse paradigm:” (i) delivery-model efficiency, (ii) consumer experience, (iii) technology advancement, (iv) regulation, (v) cultural shift, and (vi) demonstration of impact. The WEF concludes by highlighting three possible 2030 reuse scenarios based on plans from governments and civil society organizations. In the first, “based off of proposals from France and the European Parliament, 10–20% of plastic packaging could be reusable by 2030, equating to 50% of annual plastic ocean waste.” The two other scenarios, based on other government and NGO proposals, could result in 20–40% or 40–70% of plastic packaging becoming reusable, according to the report.
When it comes to designing products for any proposed re-use system, public-interest organization Upstream recently shared their six Principles for Reusable Product Design and Materials. In short, Upstream advises manufacturers and businesses to design for durability, health & safety (see FPF Fact Sheet), short supply chains, consumer convenience, shared infrastructure, and accessibility & inclusivity.
Though reuse generally creates a lower environmental impact than recycling (FPF reported here and here), not all products can be reused, or systems cannot be converted to reuse right away. The Consumer Goods Forum has put together nine design rules for creating plastic products that are more easily recyclable. Five of the rules pertain to increasing the recycling value of several commonly used plastics (FPF reported, also here and here) through practices like avoiding trace amounts of the colorant carbon black, which can’t be detected in standard recycling sorting processes, or using transparent polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics to increase the supply of high-quality recycled PET. For each Golden Design Rule, The Consumer Goods Forum lists companies that have voluntarily endorsed the practice as part of their efforts to increase plastic packaging circularity.
World Economic Forum (July 2021). “Future of reusable consumption models: Platform for shaping the future of consumption.” (pdf)
Zara Ingilizian, et al. (July 23, 2021). “Reusing 10% will stop almost half of plastic waste from entering the ocean. Here’s how.” World Economic Forum
Upstream (July 22, 2021). “Design Principles for Materials Used in Reusable Packaging & Foodware Services.”
The Consumer Goods Forum (July 2021). “Golden Design Rules for optimal plastic design, production and recycling.” (pdf)
The Consumer Goods Forum (July 2021). “Reducing the Complexity of the Recycling Process & Increasing Recycling Rates.”