Ellen MacArthur Foundation launches Plastics Pact in US, supported by 60 major signatories

Mars, Unilever and Kimberly-Clark are among the 60+ organisations to have committed to the new US version of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Plastics Pact, which aims to create a fully circular economy for plastics.

The new Pact builds on similar initiatives in the UK, Chile, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa

The new Pact builds on similar initiatives in the UK, Chile, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa

The US offshoot of the Pact launched late on Tuesday (25 August) and is believed to be the only cross-sector commitment of its kind in North America. It has garnered the support of more than 60 organisations, including corporates, trade bodies, NGOs, investors and academic institutions.

As with the other national Plastics Pacts overseen by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the commitment binds signatories to achieve four key commitments by 2025: eliminating all single-use plastics packaging which is problematic or unnecessary; ensuring that all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable; ensuring that 50% of plastic packaging is effectively recycled or composted and reaching 30% recycled or responsibly sourced, bio-based content in packaging.

There is also an interim requirement for the first target – businesses should define a list of their packaging components which are not recyclable or unnecessary by the end of 2021, to ensure they have time to design, invest in, and roll out alternatives.

Corporate signatories of the new Pact include Aldi, Amcor, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Danone North America, Henkel, Kimberly-Clark, L’Oreal USA, Mars, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Target, Unilever and Walmart. Many of these firms have already joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment – its global initiative to close the loop on plastics waste.

Also supporting are WWF and The Recycling Partnership, which are acting as co-organisers; the ocean conservancy; TerraCycle; Save Our Shores; The Sustainability Consortium and an array of trade bodies representing the FMCG, packaging and waste management sectors.

Signatories will be asked to provide data evidencing their progress towards the Pact’s commitments to the organisers on an annual basis.

WWF’s head of plastics waste and business Erin Simon said the Pact will act as a “linchpin for uniting critical stakeholders under a common vision and action plan for meaningful, measurable impact”.

"Plastic pollution is a global crisis that needs local solutions, and the United States is one of biggest opportunities where regional interventions can result in transformative change around the world,” Simon added.

Breaking the Plastic Wave

Recent research carried out by a consortium of experts from the University of Oxford, the University of Leeds, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that the world’s plastic pollution problem is still vastly outpacing efforts to stop it, despite growing public awareness and stronger business commitments.

The project, called ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’, concluded that the volume of plastic on the market will double within 20 years. At the same time, the volume of plastic entering oceans and waterways will triple, and the global ocean plastic stock will quadruple.

A multi-faceted, joined-up and transformational approach is needed to stem the problem. The research consortium are recommending that policymakers and businesses collaborate with an array of stakeholders across the plastics value chain to ensure that efforts are stepped up across the pillars of elimination, circulation and innovation.

Findings were also broadly in line with conclusions recently drawn by WWF, which is warning that a further 104 million tonnes of plastic will “leak” into ecosystems by 2030 in a ‘business-as-usual’ trajectory.

The US plays no small role in the global plastics pollution problem. Despite representing just 4% of the global population, it accounted for 12% of all solid municipal waste generated in 2019, with 13% of this waste being plastics. According to the US EPA, the recycling rate for plastics was 8.4% in 2017 (the latest year with full data on public record). Due to a lack of recycling infrastructure and varying policies between states, around six times as much plastics waste is believed to be incinerated as recycled in the US.

Sarah George



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