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Global Commitment Report Reveals Companies’ Plastic Footprints
By admin March 19, 2019

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For the first time, a Global Commitment Report (GCR) has been released, detailing the amount of plastics used in packaging and production by global companies, and calling for an end to secrecy in their plastic footprint data. The report was a collaborative effort between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UN Environment and gave data on Coca-Cola, Colgate, MARS, Nestle and SC Johnson, among others. The report also acts as a signed commitment to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use towards reuse models by 2025. With 20% of the global plastic packaging market already represented among signatories, there is the potential to create an impactful change.

Around the world, countries have been putting systems into place to mitigate plastic waste. In fact, England has recently announced its plans for a new recycling scheme involving consumer deposits on all drink containers. Similarly, Sweden has a token system where consumers receive tokens in lieu of their plastic bottles. These tokens can then be used to offset supermarket bills, used as a charitable donation or go straight into a PayPal account. However, GCR data highlights the importance of cooperation from the world’s biggest corporations in solidifying these efforts. For example, their results showed that Coca-Cola produces 3 million tons of plastic packaging per year – this is equivalent to 200,000 bottles per minute. Additionally, when the outputs of just 31 large production companies are combined, data shows that they produce 8 million tons of plastic packaging per year. Not only does this reiterate how huge the impact of the GCR could be, but it pressures the remaining 119 signatories to publicly disclose their plastic production figures as well.

Consultants from the McKinsey Institute estimate that global plastic waste will grow from 260 million tons per year in 2016 to 460 million tons per year by 2030 if demand continues to follow its current trajectory. In this context, a circular economy for plastics seems to be the ideal outcome. However, problems stem from the fact that finding an alternative to plastic is difficult, as few materials are as effective and versatile in packaging. Kjetl Bohn, CEO of Quantafuel AS speaks more on this, noting that while plastic is durable and waterproof, it is also “very hard” to recycle, as once it has been printed on, it is considered “corrupted.” Interestingly, Mr. Bohn also brings up the issue of paper as a packaging substitute, highlighting the fact that carbon emissions are actually higher in producing a paper bag than a plastic one.

In this way, plastic waste represents a growing problem that seems to be lacking a legitimate solution. Again, the McKinsey Institute are pioneering research in this area, as they believe that the challenge of plastic waste could be solved, at least in part, by the chemical industry. This includes the use of oxo-degradable plastics, which degrade in the presence of oxygen at a much quicker rate than ordinary plastic, as an alternative solution to current plastic used in packaging. In their best-case scenario prediction, a profitable branch of the industry could be built on recycled plastics, with the potential to generate profits of as much as $55 billion a year worldwide by 2030. However, until this becomes a realistic option, plastics remain a significant problem in the contemporary world, especially as consumer industries show no signs of slowing down in the near future. In this way, the push from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN by way of the GCR is fundamentally important, as encouraging transparency in the industry among top corporations can act as a catalyst for more research and discussion on the topic, hopefully spurring the ideas needed to ensure a sustainable future for both people and planet.

 

For More Information:

Coca-Cola admits it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year

Coca-Cola Reveals It Produces 3m Tonnes Of Plastic Packaging A Year In Ground-Breaking Report

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Global Commitment Report Spring 2019

How A Norwegian Clean Energy Company Is Combatting Marine Pollution From Plastics

No time to waste: What plastics recycling could offer


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