Business giants pledge to cut plastic waste by 2025

The world’s biggest brands, including Nestlé, Unilever, H&M, Coca-Cola, Danone and Mars, signed The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment on Monday, October 29, in Bali, Indonesia, at the annual Our Ocean Conference.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) in collaboration with the United Nations Environment spearheaded The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, “A line in the sand: Global Commitment to eliminate plastic pollution at its source.” The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites businesses, governments, and other organisations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source.

Companies that have signed the pledge represent 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as governments, NGOs, universities, industry associations, investors, and other organisations, they all have agreed to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at the source. All signatories have promised that they will eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastics, and that by 2025 100% of all of their plastic packaging would be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Targets of this commitment include:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models;
  • Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025;
  • Circulate the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused or recycled and made into new packaging or products;
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Erik Solheim

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, in the press release said:

“Ocean plastic is one of the most visible and disturbing examples of a plastic pollution crisis. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution. It sets out the steps businesses and governments must take if we are to find a solution to the root causes of plastic pollution and we urge all those working towards dealing with this global issue to sign it.”

However, some environmental groups, as EcoWatch notes, cautiously welcomed The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Oceana chief policy officer Jacqueline Savitz said:

“Plastic pollution has grown into a major global crisis for our oceans, and it threatens our health. To have an impact, these companies must reduce the amount of single-use plastic at the source – in the factory – before it gets to consumers. Every company that signed the declaration should commit to a meaningful, time-bound and specific percent-reduction of the amount of plastic it is putting into the market, and to find alternative ways to package and deliver its products. A circular economy is a nice utopian idea, but this crisis is unfolding today, and we need to see meaningful commitments to end the plastics crisis these companies have created.”

In addition Greenpeace Indonesia global project leader Ahmad Ashov in response to the EMF announcement said:

“While elements of the EMF Global Commitment are moving in the right direction, the problem is that companies are given the flexibility to continue prioritising recycling over reduction and reuse. Corporations are not required to set actual targets to reduce the total amount of single-use plastics they are churning out. They can simply continue with business as usual after signing the commitment.”

The Greenpeace recent report ‘A Crisis for Convenience’ reveals that

“11 of the largest consumer goods companies’ current plans allow them to increase their use of single-use plastics and none have set clear elimination or reduction targets.”

Therefore Greenpeace is calling on companies like Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Pepsi to show true leadership and deliver on all of the following actions:

  • Set ambitious and accountable targets to reduce single-use plastics;
  • Act immediately to eliminate excessive and problematic plastic packaging;
  • Prioritise investment in reuse and alternative delivery systems;
  • Embrace transparency and report annually on their plastic footprint;

All signatories of The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment have agreed to publish annual data on their progress. So while there is immense work to be done in order to free our planet from plastic crisis, as Greenpeace encourages, let’s keep all the companies and organisations accountable for their plastic waste, and ask them to embrace transparency and show their plastic footprint.

Baiba Šustere

Baiba Šustere is a writer whose work focuses on mindfulness, health and wellbeing.