Q: Plastics is a major focus of your organization’s work. Why?
A: Plastics is an important topic and very challenging to address. We work extensively in this space to demonstrate how the application of circular economy principles and a systems change approach can drive transformation at scale.
For example, over the past few years, real progress has been made. With over 500 signatories of the Global Commitment and 26 countries participating in our plastic pacts, we have mobilized and are on track to eliminate 9 million tons of new virgin plastics from the market by 2025. This is a lot—if we piled this into the Wembley Stadium, it would fill it a hundred times.
But clearly much much more needs to be done.
Over recent years, we’ve extensively promoted elimination, upstream innovation, and reuse.
And more recently we’ve been focused on flexible packaging, such as crisp packets, pouches, and sachets, which are hugely problematic and highly polluting. Much more so than rigid plastics, things like plastic bottles. Every year, tens of trillions of individual pieces of flexible packaging are placed on the market. Much of this is in developing markets, which have no waste infrastructure to collect it.
And this type of packaging is the fastest growing fraction [of all packaging]; it’s currently growing at 5 percent per year, which means it’s set to double in the next fifteen years, which is astounding. Much can and needs to be done by the companies and brands who are placing these on the market. But it is absolutely clear that no single company can solve this issue alone.
“It is absolutely clear that no single company can solve this issue alone.”
We remain very focused on plastics and are pushing for the establishment of a legally binding global treaty to end plastic pollution, the text of which should be adopted by 2024. Together with the World Wildlife Fund, we’ve launched the Business Coalition to bring the voice of the private sector to the discussions. One-hundred and seventy-five countries voted to open international negotiations, and the second round will happen in Paris in May. To be very clear, this is a crucial moment in time, and humanity’s very best shot at having a meaningful impact on this catastrophic problem.