14 april 2020
Multinationals make promises about plastic packaging that they cannot keep. As the report “The bridge to circularity” by the US recycling industry explains: neither the commitment to make by 2025 all plastic packaging 100% recyclable nor the promise that plastic packaging will be considerably made from recycled plastic can be kept.
The promises were made as part of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Over four hundred fifty organizations have now signed this initiative that started in 2018 by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Together, the signees are responsible for one-fifth of all plastic packaging in the world. Among them are multinationals such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever.
“There is never enough recycled plastic”
By 2025, all plastic packaging must be reusable, recyclable, or compostable according to the Global Commitment. The American Association of recyclers does not expect that these targets will be met because, amongst other reasons, most of the plastic packaging cannot be recycled at all. The situation was summarised recently at an American congress of the packaging industry: only 10% of plastic is currently recycled in the United States. That’s far from enough to meet the high demands for recycled plastic emerging from the promises made by multinationals. For example, Nestlé has promised to use 35% recycled plastic by 2025 and PepsiCo 25%. Also, Coca-Cola wishes to use 50% recycled plastic by 2030 for all packaging.
Strict interventions needed
The recycling organization calculated that an additional 1.1 billion pounds of recycled plastic (RPET) would be needed if 25% of recycled plastic was to be used. This is three times as much as is currently available. A national approach is required to meet the targets of the Global Commitment. The production of plastic packaging needs to be standardized, collection systems need to become much more efficient, and there needs to be a guaranteed outlet for recycled plastic. The organization is clear about this: without strict interventions, it will not be able to provide the amount of recycled plastic that will be required in the future.
The situation in the United States
The organization only describes the situation in the United States. Some 20,000 municipalities decide autonomously what and how to recycle. There are even municipalities that do not recycle at all. There is a lack of a nationwide coordinated recycling system, which is what’s needed to achieve the targets.
If recycling is a problem even in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, how can we expect it to be done better in other countries? In countries with low purchasing power and poor waste infrastructure? The report does not address the situation outside the United States, while the Global Commitment covers the whole world.
The Position of Plastic Soup Foundation
If the Global Commitment for multinationals in the United States is already unachievable, this is all the more true for the rest of the world. The analysis of the US recycling sector shows that the promises made by multinationals are mainly fake solutions. The Global Commitment enables these companies to continue to package their products in plastic, while falsely suggesting that they are effectively combating plastic soup.
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