plastic waste dump

Major brands commit to eliminating plastic waste with global agreement

Image credit: DT

A global commitment to eliminating plastic waste and pollution at the source has been signed by over 290 major organisations who collectively manufacture 20 per cent of all plastic packaging produced globally.

The group includes major brands like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s, who have all signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with UN Environment (UNEP).

The UN said the commitment was one of the most ambitious efforts yet to fight plastic pollution and it comes as public pressure mounts on manufacturers and retailers to pare back the deluge of plastic packaging that is clogging landfills and choking the seas.

“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,” said Ellen MacArthur, the record-breaking British sailor who is behind the plastic initiative.

“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.”

The Global Commitment aims to create ‘a new normal’ for plastic packaging, which promises to eliminate single-use and unnecessary plastic and to innovate so that all packaging can be recycled. Targets will be reviewed every 18 months and become increasingly ambitious over the coming years.

Businesses that sign the commitment will also publish annual data on their progress to help drive momentum and ensure transparency.

UNEP has estimated that if current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, as eight million tonnes of bottles and waste swamp the oceans each year, killing marine life and entering the food chain.

“Most efforts until now have been focused on cleaning up plastic pollution. This commitment is about eliminating pollution at its source,” said Rob Opsomer, who leads the foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative.

Erik Solheim, executive director of UNEP, described the commitment as “the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution.”

Last week, the European Parliament voted for a complete ban on single-use plastic items, including straws and cutlery, in a bid to curb pollution.

Three of the brands that signed up - Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé - were recently named the world’s worst plastic polluters, according to an index by the Break Free From Plastic movement.

In North America, these three brands accounted for 64 per cent of all plastic pollution identified in cleanups, according to the analysis.

“We are focused on improving the sustainability of all of our packaging, regardless of the type, and increasing the amount of recycled and renewable material,” said Ben Jordan, senior director of environmental policy at Coca-Cola.

PepsiCo said it had made a number of pledges in a bid to “build a PepsiCo where plastics need never become waste”.

“Protecting our planet is hugely important to us. We are committed to achieving 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or biodegradable packaging by 2025,” said PepsiCo spokesman Gian-Carlo Peressutti.

Earlier this year, China imposed a ban on non-industrial plastic waste imports, forcing developed countries to create more domestic facilities and cut down on the amount they produce. 

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