With new data showing major brand companies in the U.S. Plastics Pact lagging their own targets for recycled content in plastic packaging, the head of the group said it likely it won't meet all its 2025 goals.
The pact's latest annual report, released Feb. 23, showed companies had 8 percent post-consumer or bio-based plastic content in their packaging in 2021, well off the pace to hit a target of 30 percent by 2025.
Executive Director Emily Tipaldo said the report shows the companies in the pact will not meet some targets but said the efforts are laying the groundwork for more change.
"It is fair to say, yes, we are going to miss some of our 2025 targets and at the same time, there is a lot of value in what we've built," she said. "I wouldn't short-change the short-term progress or the little progress we've seen — given what we've learned — because it's so integral to unlocking bigger change and bigger progress down the road."
Pact companies include major brands like Coca-Cola Co., Walmart Inc. and Unilever plc. Member companies say they are responsible for an estimated 37 percent of U.S. plastics packaging.
Besides recycled content, the group set four broad targets when it formed in 2020.
One is to have 100 percent of plastics packaging from its member companies be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Right now, that figure is 36 percent.
As well, the pact said it wanted a 50 percent recycling and composting rate for plastics packaging by 2025, but it said government statistics indicate the rate is currently only about 13.3 percent.
Tipaldo said economics remain the main challenge, whether that shows up in a lack of recycling infrastructure, pricing differences between virgin and recycled materials or the lingering impact of COVID-19 on supply chains.
"The way that you could sum up all those things is there's not the economic value to make a lot of these changes yet," she said. "Economics is the umbrella under which a number of these other factors come into play."
She said the U.S. pact and similar ones around the world knew they were setting ambitious targets.
"The plastic pacts — both the U.S. Pact and other pacts — knew that the achievement of each of the four targets would be extremely difficult," she said. "Some pacts will get closer to achieving different targets than others."