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01-18-2017

Davos Report Wants to Increase Recycling Rate to 70 Percent

The World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have launched a report, "The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action", which proposes a plan to increase global recycling rates for plastic packaging from just 14% currently to 70%.

The organizations behind the report calculated last year that there could be more plastics than fish (by weight) in the ocean by 2050 if no action is taken immediately. The report wants to provide the global plastics industry with a transition strategy for better package design and increased recycling rates. The findings are:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Without fundamental redesign and innovation, the remaining 30% of plastic packaging (by weight) will never be recycled and the equivalent of 10 billion garbage bags per year will be destined to landfill or incineration

New Plastics Econonomy Initiative

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 multistakeholder New Plastics Economy initiative brings together 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 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.

Over 40 industry leaders from the global plastics value chain have rallied behind the report supporting the plan with statements like "We urgently need to transform global plastic packaging material flows if we are to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material." (Paul Polman, Unilever), "This important report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation offers a key step in delivering science-based solutions by providing options that help us close resource loops for plastics and facilitate the transition towards a New Plastics Economy." (Andrew Liveris, Dow), and "The New Plastics Economy initiative's collaborative way of working is aligned with ours and represents a powerful opportunity to drive positive change in the plastics system." (Virginie Helias, Procter & Gamble)

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