Time for a “fundamental rethink” of the global plastics value chain

20 January 2016, Davos – A revolution of the global plastics value chain to incorporate circular economy principles is needed to reduce waste and avert an environmental crisis, according to a new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, entitled ‘The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics’.

The study investigated the global flow of plastic packaging, concluding that plastics are the “ultimate single-use material”. Currently, 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth around €100 billion a year, is lost to the economy after a short first use. With total plastic use expected to double in the next 20 years, this will have dire consequences for the environment; the report predicts that oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

Achieving a systemic change will require a major collaborative effort by all stakeholders across the global plastics value chain. The report recommends that changes must specifically address after-use pathways for plastics, the leakage of plastics into natural systems and the decoupling of plastics from fossil feedstocks.

The report also proposed the creation of an independent co-ordinating vehicle to set direction, establish common standards and systems, overcome fragmentation, and foster innovation opportunities at scale. Along these lines, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the establishment of a cross-value-chain global dialogue mechanism, to help drive and co-ordinate the transition.  

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