"The current state of U.S. infrastructure, coupled with the lack of incentives to utilize recycled content in plastic packaging, have put immense strain on the value chain," she said. "The road map is designed to help U.S. industry leaders act on the significant, systemwide change needed to realize a circular economy for plastics by 2025. The time frame is short, and the workload is immense, but if we choose to do nothing, the visions of a circular economy across the U.S. will give way to the status quo."
Other companies and groups in the pact include Unilever, Clorox, Mars, Mondelez and Aldi.
Plastics firms and trade groups include Amcor, Charter Next Generation, Eastman Chemical, Pretium, PreZero, PureCycle, the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the National Association for PET Container Resources.
The report outlines specific 2025 targets for recycling by material type.
For example, it says that the recycling rate for bottles made from PET, polypropylene and high density polyethylene should have a minimum recycling rate of 70 percent by 2025. Currently, PET and HDPE bottles have rates at around 30 percent.
As well, it said that PE films should have a recycling rate of 30 percent, compared with EPA estimates of 10 percent now, and that all curbside recycling programs should be able to handle film and flexible packaging.
Currently, few curbside systems can handle those flexible materials, and a recent industry report said it would cost $4 billion over five years to upgrade residential collection programs.
The pact also said that both PET nonbottle rigid packaging and PP nonbottle rigid packaging should reach at least 50 percent recycling, and HDPE nonbottle rigids should have a rate of at least 30 percent.
Right now, rates for those materials are well below those figures. The EPA said PP containers had a recycling rate of 8 percent in 2018, for example.
To create demand in the system, the report said there would need to be "robust domestic end markets" for all the packaging materials it is targeting.
By the end of 2022, the report said all of its members would make public commitments for recycled content for the U.S. market and that the pact would have a clear position in support of mandates for recycled content.
It said it would develop policy approaches to "support post-consumer recycled content mandates and procurement policies in coordination with strong programs and policies like EPR and [deposit return systems] to assist the collection and sortation of recyclable plastic packaging."
The group also said it was moving ahead with plans for a list, to be released by the end of this year, of problematic plastic packaging that should be phased out.
By the end of 2022, the pact said it will build on that list to develop a "public engagement campaign around plastics to recognize plastics value in a circular economy and that there are unnecessary and problematic plastics that should be designed or phased out."
Some critics have questioned how much a voluntary agreement like the pact can accomplish and noted previous voluntary efforts around plastics recycling that came with high-profile announcements but fizzled.
But supporters see the road map as a key part of building a national strategy.
"To meaningfully address the plastic waste crisis in the United States, we must unite the critical stakeholders — industry leaders, waste management systems and policymakers — under a cohesive action plan," said Erin Simon, head of plastic waste and business at World Wildlife Fund. "The road map will be the key for setting a national strategy that reaches our set targets and measures our progress in a consistent, transparent manner."
The U.S. pact is one of a series of global pacts being developed under the umbrella of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.