On April 7th 2021, The Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF) Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste held an informative webinar for members interested in finding out more about the Coalition’s three workstreams.

Ignacio Gavilan, Sustainability Director at the CGF set the scene for the discussion, by providing attendees with an overview on the mission and work of the CGF, and its eight strategic Coalitions of Action, launched in 2020 to accelerate the collective impact of our members as well as the pace of implementation across key topics such as plastic waste, deforestation and food waste. Ignacio then presented a high level overview of the Plastic Waste Coalition of Action, before asking attendees to respond to the first interactive poll question of the session: “On a scale of 1-5, how important is plastic to you and your company’s sustainability agenda?”. The poll results revealed that the plastic waste issue is indeed very high on companies’ agendas.

Ben Dixon from SYSTEMIQ, an organisation lending project management and technical expertise to the Coalition then presented the “system challenge” of plastics, sharing that the factors that make plastics a useful and versatile material for the industry – it is light weight, cheap and durable – also make it a problematic material which is very likely show up in nature in large quantities. “This is a type of pollution that has the name of your company on it”, he shared, as the NGO sector can now audit packaging that shows up in nature and see which company produced it. There are obvious reputational and legal risks that come with that.

Ben then shared some hard-hitting statistics with attendees, which they uncovered in their research alongside the Pew Charitable Trust. The generation of plastic waste is expected to double by 2040, the leakage of plastics to the ocean is expected to triple, and the plastic stock in the ocean is expected to quadruple to more and 650 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean. “If we were to follow through on current commitments, we will only reduce plastic pollution to ocean by 7%”, Ben shared. The science is becoming clearer and the pressure is mounting for the industry, from investors, the media, NGOs, regulators and consumers.

The CGF alongside their colleagues from SYSTEMIQ then shared more information on the three focus areas of the Coalition: design, extended producer responsibility, and chemical recycling. “The Coalition’s Design workstream is working to align on what they can do to accelerate good packaging design that will increase recycling rates and in turn increase quantity and quality of recycled content available, and ultimately advance circularity and minimise waste”, Alexandra Philips from SYSTEMIQ shared. At the end of last year, the Coalition aligned on the first two Golden Design Rules, a set of voluntary, independent and time bound commitments on specific packaging design changes made by individual companies, that can have an impact on recyclability and improve the quality of recycled content. The remaining design rules of the set will be released in the coming months.
Aliya Kumekbayeva, Sustainability Officer at the CGF shared about the Coalition’s work on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes. “EPR can be a great tool to drive better collection and recycling”, she shared, “but it is important that it is designed in a fair and optimal way for all actors to be truly sustainable.” The workstream has been working to align on a common industry position of what an optimal EPR framework looks like, and has launched an Optimal EPR Hub with the objective to translate these design principles and parameters into practical engagement with policy makers in 14 priority markets.

Finally, Naseer Chia from SYSTEMIQ shared about the Coalition’s work on the topic of chemical recycling which he said has a critical role to play in increasing recycling rates for plastics that are not currently recycled at scale. The workstream has aligned on a robust evidence-based industry vision to enable chemical recycling to be scaled in a safe and ethical way. Fifteen member companies have co-authored a Vision and Principles paper, which lays out their vision on the value of the technology assuming certain conditions are met. In the coming months, the workstream will share the results of the independent environmental assessment study which examines the lifecycle impact of chemical recycling in comparison to fossil fuel based virgin feed stock. This life cycle assessment is being reviewed by an independent expert panel, Naseer shared.

The webinar ended with an interactive Q&A session for participants.

For more information about the CGF’s work to help drive progress towards a world where no plastic ends up in nature, learn about our Plastic Waste Coalition of Action.