UN and Ellen MacArthur Foundation expect virgin plastic use to fall

Global virgin plastic use has peaked and is now on a downward trend, according to Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

It is estimated that commitments from brands and retailers will lead to a fall by nearly 20% in absolute terms by 2025 compared to 2018. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment was set up three years ago and has 63 brand and retail signatories.

However, the organisations warned that the move does not address the amount of single-use plastic on the market and claimed that “there is very little evidence of ambitious efforts to reduce the need for single-use packaging in the first place”.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder and chair of trustees of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “We won’t recycle our way out of plastic pollution, eliminating single-use packaging is a vital part of the solution. Alarmingly, our report shows little investment in this. We need much more urgent focus on upstream innovation to rethink how to deliver products without packaging or by using reusable packaging. This doesn’t just allow us to design out waste, it also means we can design out carbon emissions whilst creating new opportunities for business. Shifting just 20% of plastic packaging from single-use to reuse is an opportunity estimated to be worth $10bn.”

Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, said: “The Global Commitment is showing us that concerted voluntary action by actors across the value chain, including governments, can begin to shift the needle in the fight against plastic pollution. The efforts from all signatories in reporting their progress transparently and with agreed metrics is truly commendable, and a great example to learn from. The frontrunners are also demonstrating that we can decouple the benefits we derive from plastic from the consumption of virgin plastic, and this is groundbreaking. But the action from these frontrunners can be boosted by a comprehensive, inclusive and global approach.”

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