Consumer product companies will need a "substantial acceleration" of progress around sustainability of their plastic packaging to meet targets they've set for 2025, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The foundation, which is leading a high-profile effort with more than 250 companies to change how they use plastics, said big consumer brands like SC Johnson Inc. and Group Danone are making progress in areas like using more recycled content and phasing out PVC and polystyrene in packaging.
But EMF said that looking broadly at the major global consumer product firms they work with, there's been limited progress in other areas such as making plastic packaging more recyclable — they highlighted flexible film as needing urgent work — and reducing single-use plastics or encouraging more reusable packaging models.
It's the group's second annual progress report since launching the effort in 2018. Firms including Unilever plc and Coca-Cola Co. made sizable commitments to EMF around changing their plastics footprint by 2025, and 118 of them publicly detailed their progress in the report.
"The report showed real progress but also showed that we'll need to accelerate progress to get to the 2025 targets," Sander Defruyt, lead for EMF's New Plastics Economy initiative, said in a Nov. 5 webinar timed with the report's release.
EMF's report can be seen as a guide to the direction that some global consumer product companies, who are key customers of the plastics industry, are headed in their use of plastic.
"We're calling on businesses to set ambitious reduction targets to step up the efforts on solutions that go beyond recycling, solutions that reduce the need for single-use packaging in the first place," Defruyt said. "Secondly, we're calling on industry to come up with a collective way forward on how to deal with these packaging types that are currently not recyclable, in particular the small format flexibles.
"We either need urgently to see a credible plan on how to make recycling work for these, or if there is no credible plan, we need to see bold action to innovate away from these packaging types in the first place," he said.