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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 40 member companies are committed to engage in this important effort.

From Passion to Action: the Roadmap to Success

While plastic does play a useful role in our industry as a packaging material, the alarming amount of plastic materials in our oceans and natural spaces is a sign that our approach to using plastics needs to change. The vast majority of packaging products made today still include materials that make recycling impossible or very difficult, which is one reason why large quantities of plastic end up in nature.

In 2018, the CGF Board endorsed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision for a New Plastics Economy and committed to implementing pre-competitive, collaborative actions towards greater circularity with the aim of eliminating plastic waste on land and sea. We started to work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as well as partners SYSTEMIQ and McKinsey, to develop a blueprint for how CGF members can take action on the issue of plastic waste and help make circularity the norm in our industry. We developed a simulation model that compares collection and recycling rates, material flows, as well as associated financial and social implications for different combinations of waste management system design choices.

This exercise laid the foundation for the work of the Plastic Waste Coalition of Action, which was launched in 2020 as part of the CGF’s new global 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. 

In line with the vision of the New Plastics Economy, we believe 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 requires collaboration, knowledge- and best practice- sharing, and creating partnerships with different sectors and organisations that, under different circumstances, might not normally have come together to act.

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 recycling effectively.

At the CGF’s first virtual Sustainable Retail Summit, CGF Director of Environmental Sustainability Ignacio Gavilan introduced the Coalition in a special on-demand video. Tune in below:

 

Collaborating for Circularity

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. 

We aim to bring unique value to the existing efforts against plastic waste through the CGF’s emphasis on retailer-manufacturer collaboration and action-oriented focus. We are continuing to look to partner with key organisations across different geographies to build on the work that is already being done, avoid duplication and support local work around the world accelerating progress towards a circular economy.

Learn more about the Plastic Waste Coalition.

Download the one-pager.