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Building a Circular Economy for Packaging

Moving from a linear to a circular economy requires a different approach to plastic usage, from production, consumption and reuse, to recycling and disposal. This new approach will require collaboration, knowledge and experience sharing, and creating partnerships with different sectors and organisations that, under different circumstances, might not normally have come together to act.

There is an urgent need to tackle the environmental problems associated with plastic waste, especially as 95% of plastic packaging is created for single use and packaging produced by our industry is on the rise globally. The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastics produced since the 1950s, about 60 percent has ended up in a landfill or the natural environment. The 8-12 million tonnes of plastic litter that ends up in the ocean every year is one of the most visible and alarming signs of this problem. We need collaborative action, and the CGF is in a prime position to drive positive change on the plastic waste challenge and toward a circular economy, given:

  • the scale of the waste issue globally;
  • our direct and visible association with it;
  • the desire of some governments to raise funding for new waste handling facilities;
  • the risk of cost impacts for the industry;
  • the growing focus on the social and economic plight of waste pickers;
  • the inability of any of our members to solve this issue alone;
  • and the opportunities that can arise from the recovery of raw materials.

With a common vision of a world where no plastic waste ends up in nature – land or sea – the CGF’s Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste and its 35 member companies are committed to engage in this important effort.

From Passion to Action: the Roadmap to Success

The CGF’s work on plastic waste began in 2018 when our Board publicly recognised the need for our industry to play a leading role in tackling the issue. In October 2018, we endorsed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy vision of a circular economy, and committed to implementing pre-competitive, collaborative actions towards greater circularity with the aim of eliminating plastic waste on land and sea. The Board then identified the specific areas where our members can collaborate to make a difference, and in 2019 our working groups carried out significant actions behind the scenes to set the foundation for our work today. We also partnered with SYSTEMIQ and McKinsey to create a blueprint for reaching our ambitions through the development of a simulation model comparing collection and recycling rates, material flows, as well as associated financial and social implications for different combinations of waste management system design choices.

In 2020, the CGF launched the Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste as part of an organisation-wide strategy to help our members drive more impactful collaborations that benefit both people and planet and seize the opportunities offered by purpose-driven business models. The Coalition’s vision of accelerating progress towards the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy is embodied by its central aims for members to work towards implementing a small number of impactful “golden rules” on design and the development of an industry-supported Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework. It also aims to ensure that developed and transitional markets both make progress towards the development and/or improvement of effective waste management systems, and to help overcome barriers to scaling advanced chemical recycling effectively.

Collaborating with Stakeholders

We recognise that the plastic waste challenge will only be solved by global collaboration between companies, national and local governments, multinational organisations, the recycling industry and consumers. For each of our workstreams, we have partnered with key organisations who are also actively working towards finding solutions in these different areas. 

The Coalition aims to bring unique value to the existing efforts against plastic waste through the CGF’s emphasis on retailer-manufacturer collaboration and action-oriented focus. To this end, the Coalition is looking to partner with key organisations across different geographies to build on the work that is already being done and avoid duplication.

Learn more about the Plastic Waste Coalition.

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