Plastic bottles processing

Major brands expected to miss plastic sustainability targets

Image credit: Ecoalf

Major plastic packaging producers such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mars and Nestlé are expected to miss targets to make their packaging more sustainable by 2025, according to a report.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) ‘Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report’ has revealed that the target of achieving 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 will “almost certainly” not be met, and also found that virgin plastic use had actually increased back to 2018 levels.

The Global Commitment and Plastic Pact network represents more than 1,000 businesses, governments and other organisations that have pledged to create a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste.

For the third year in a row, the share of reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging has increased slightly among members to 65.4 per cent.

However, this percentage varies widely across signatories – from below 20 per cent to close to 100 per cent – mainly driven by the types of packaging in their packaging portfolio.

While many businesses are making major investments in designing packaging to be technically recyclable, the report said that “a more fundamental rethink” of packaging, products and business models would be required for some to achieve the target.

Around 16 per cent of signatories’ packaging is flexible packaging such as sachets and films – a category that is increasingly unlikely to meet recyclability in practice and at scale by 2025.

Nevertheless, the report found that some leading brands and retail signatories doubled their use of recycled content in the last three years – from an average of 4.8 per cent in 2018 to 10.0 per cent in 2021.

Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace USA, said: “The report clearly shows that voluntary commitments from companies to address plastic pollution have failed.

“Instead of tackling the plastic pollution crisis, big brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Mars actually increased the amount of plastic they create since the EMF Global Commitment was launched in 2018.

“The EMF report pours cold water on the celebrated commitments made by big corporations who signed on to this high-profile project to eliminate plastic pollution.

“This underlines the need for governments to ensure that the global plastic treaty, which starts negotiations shortly, delivers major reductions in plastic production and use and accelerates a just transition to the reuse economy we need. Anything less than this is a disservice to our communities and our climate.”

In July this year, it was revealed that UK households throw nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic waste into the bin every year, with only 12 per cent of it recycled at domestic reprocessing facilities.

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