A new report from the Davos World Economic Forum gathering, launched with the support of some large companies in the plastics industry, is calling for strategies to dramatically increase recycling of plastic packaging — from 14 percent today to 70 percent.
The Jan. 16 report, “The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action” from the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, argues for a major rethink of plastic packaging and bills itself as a “transition strategy for better package design and increased recycling rates.”
The American Chemistry Council, in a statement, said it welcomed that the report recognized benefits of plastics, but ACC argued that issues like resource efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions should be taken more into account when setting policy.
A press release from the WEF says the report is endorsed by over 40 industry leaders, including Amcor Ltd. CEO Ron Delia, Dow Chemical Co. Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris and Alexander Baumgartner, CEO of Constantia Flexibles.
The report was released a day ahead of the WEF's annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
It doesn't make specific recommendations on how to boost recycling, but raises many topics, including replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable bags, looking at container deposits and using more large returnable rigid packaging in shipping.
The group said that over the next year it would launch two “global innovation challenges” to kick-start the redesign of packaging, and would start to develop a “Global Plastics Protocol” for packaging design.
“This could drive systemic change,” said Dominic Waughray, a member of the World Economic Forum's executive committee. “The plan puts innovation at the heart of a strategy that could shift the entire system while unlocking a billion dollar business opportunity. Alignment along value chains and between the public and private sector is key to this.”
More specifically, the group breaks down plastic packaging into three segments:
• It said that 50 percent of plastics packaging today could be “profitably recycled” if improvements are made to packaging design and waste management systems.
• A further 20 percent of plastic packaging could be profitably reused, “for example by replacing single-use plastic bags with re-usable alternatives or designing innovative packaging models based on product refills.”
• Finally, it suggests that 30 percent of plastic packaging, such as multi-material wrappers, are particularly problematic for recycling.