A nonprofit group known for work with endangered species is launching a new effort to promote reuse of materials, including plastics.
The World Wildlife Fund is out with what it calls the Cascading Materials Vision, an effort that seeks to minimize barriers for increased use of recycled materials.
The American Chemistry Council, the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, DuPont Co., the Recycling Partnership, and the European Bioplastic Association are among the initial group of organizations and companies supporting the idea.
With global population continuing to rise, WWF sees efficient materials management as a way to ease the use of resources and decrease waste disposal, which the group says "negatively impacts ecosystems and communities."
While businesses seek to use more secondary materials, there are what the non-profit calls systematic barriers influencing both quality and quantity. And that's where the new effort hopes to have an impact.
Steve Russell, vice president of plastics at ACC, said while the set of guiding principles are broad and ambitious, he said they also are well thought out.
"ACC has been involved in discussions around recycling policy and waste management, waste minimalization for many years. And, more recently, those discussions have taken on a new imperative because of the marine debris work. There are a lot of ideas out there. There is the zero waste movement, sustainable materials management, circular economy. In all of those discussions, it strikes us that there are some common themes," he said.
"And we were really intrigued that WWF took the initiative to pull many of those, we thought, most helpful streams together," Russell said. "They thought through this pretty deeply and their vision aligned very well with our policy objectives."
Global food giant Nestle, which has an extensive bottled water business, is one of the initial supporters of the program.
"Continually improving the environmental performance of our packaging following a life cycle approach is a key driver in our product and packaging development process. The guiding principles described in the WWF's Cascading Materials Vision are therefore fully aligned with Nestle's ambition to prevent littering and packaging going to landfill," said Marco Bernasconi, global head of packaging, at Nestle.
There are 10 guiding principles for the vision, including one that stresses maximizing benefit for both the environment and society while measuring impact.
"Solutions," ACC's Russell said, "need to be evaluated by the effect they have on the environment and people."
Another principle addresses designing products to account for waste management.
"If we are making design decisions, we should be doing that in connection with an understanding of how the product gets used. In the past, that hasn't been as frequently linked," Russell said.
The guiding principles also call for a "systems approach" toward waste management.
"In order for a waste management system to function well, you've got to have optimized collection. You have to have stakeholder outreach. You have to have an end-use market in place. None of the pieces can be done by themselves. So a systems approach, we think, is particularly critical," Russell said.
Those signing on to support the Cascading Materials Vision platform "agree to abide by a set of guiding principles for decision making that align materials management practices, allow for greater collaboration across industry and create easier sourcing of secondary materials," WWF indicated.
Other guidelines address sharing responsibility, inclusive solutions, effective policy, adaptability, diversity and science.
"The vision includes many of the philosophies upon which our organization is based," said Ameripen President Lee Anderson in a statement, "including science-based decision making, a systems approach, effective policies and adaptability."
"We can quite literally do more with less simply by using materials more than once," said Erin Simon deputy director of packaging and material science at WWF, in a statement. "By bringing stakeholders together onto one cohesive platform, the Cascading Materials Vision will help reduce the burden on our natural systems and enable creation of the global markets needed to make quality secondary materials accessible and reliable."
More information about the Cascading Materials Vision, including the guiding principles, is available at https://www.worldwildlife.org/projects/cascading-materials-extending-the-life-of-our-natural-resources.