The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment will be launched in collaboration with the UN Environment at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali later today (29 October). The Commitment aims to create a “new normal” for plastic packaging by eliminating single-use packaging materials, increasing the amount of reused or recycled plastics in new products and innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be reused, recycled, or composted by 2025.

More than 250 organisations have signed up to the Global Commitment, including business giants such as Danone, Unilever, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and L’Oreal. Major packaging producers including Amcor and Mondi, as well as waste management firms like Veolia and SUEZ, have also signed up to the commitment. Signatories account for 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally.

More than 15 financial institutions, with more than $2.5trn in assets under management, have also endorsed the Commitment, with more than $200m pledged by five venture capital funds to create a circular economy for plastic.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “We know that cleaning up plastics from our beaches and oceans is vital, but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow.

“The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment draws a line in the sand, with businesses, governments and others around the world uniting behind a clear vision for what we need to create a circular economy for plastic. This is just one step on what will be a challenging journey, but one which can lead to huge benefits for society, the economy and the environment. I encourage all businesses and governments to go further and embark on a race to the top in the creation of a circular economy for plastic. One in which this material never becomes waste or pollution.”

The Global Commitment builds on the original purpose of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy, which called on businesses and nations to recycle and re-use 70% of the world’s plastic packaging.

UK Government commits

Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, yet more than 60% of that amount has ended up landfill, oceans and the natural environment.

Between eight to 12 million tonnes of plastic is believed to seep into the oceans each year and by 2050, there could be more plastic (by weight) than fish in the oceans. By that time, it is believed that plastics could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption.

Targets set under the Global Commitment will be reviewed every 18 months and ambitions will be scaled-up over the coming years. All businesses that have signed up to the Commitment will publish annual progress data.

The Global Commitment’s vision for a circular economy will be supported by WWF, the World Economic Forum and the Consumer Goods Forum. National governments are also invited to support the Commitment, and the UK and Scottish Governments are among the five governments and cities to sign up.

“I am proud that today we have signed up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment,” UK Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove said. “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world. It is a global problem requiring a global solution. That’s why the UK Government has brought together the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and Global Plastics Action Partnership.

“It’s also why I want to congratulate the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on their excellent work to help galvanise action. Only by unifying countries and businesses all over the world, we will be able to safeguard our land, rivers and seas for future generations.”

Most signatures to the Global Commitment have implemented individual targets on packaging over the past 12 months. Most recently, Unilever agreed to a partnership with waste management Veolia, which will see the companies work together to develop innovative solutions to the plastic waste crisis.

Last month, Unilever’s chief R&D officer David Blanchard outlined the company’s three-pillar approach to improving the recyclability of its product packaging, focusing on “less”, “better” and “no plastics” solutions.

“The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is an important step on our journey to eliminate plastic waste. It’s critical that all the key actors in the system work together to accelerate our transition towards the circular economy and, as part of that, address the challenge of single-use plastics. Unilever is ready to play its part and calls on leading businesses and governments to join the movement,” Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman added.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie