Plastic packaging targets unlikely to be met

This time last year the Ellen MacArthur Foundation claimed that plastic use by big businesses was “likely to peak in 2021”. The latest update of its global plastic commitment shows this wasn’t the case, however.

Use of virgin plastic is now as high as it was when the programme started in 2018, while the percentage of plastic packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable has changed little – from 63.2% in 2019 to 65.4% in 2021. The target for 2025 of 100% will “almost certainly be missed”, the foundation admitted.

“The reason some businesses have not hit peak virgin plastic is due to increases in their total plastic packaging use. This reinforces the need for businesses to decouple growth from the use of plastic packaging,” the update reads.

The commitment was launched in 2018 and has encouraged a number of major companies to open up on their plastic packaging – publishing figures on everything from the tonnages used to the amount of recycled content they have incorporated. Use of post-consumer recycled content is one of the few encouraging results in this year’s progress report hitting 10% (the target is 26% by 2025).

“Brands and retailers retain the potential to make a significant positive contribution to tackling the plastic pollution crisis,” EMF said. However, the foundation called on governments to “take action to help accelerate progress”. 

Indeed, companies representing only around 20% of the plastic packaging market have signed up to the commitment. NGOs will undoubtedly use the limited uptake and the stagnation of progress to push for a tough plastics treaty when talks start later this month in Uruguay.

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