Plastic waste has become a pervasive environmental, societal, and health issue, with an estimated 12 million tonnes of plastic finding its way into the oceans each year. In fact, plastic now makes up 80% of all marine pollution.
Shockingly, only around 9% of plastic is recycled.
In a collective effort to tackle the growing global crisis of plastic pollution, more than 1,000 organizations have united behind Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) Global Commitment initiative, launched in 2018. This includes businesses that together represent 20% of the world’s plastic packaging consumers and 55 government signatories.
By joining the initiative, the signatories committed to ambitious targets and pledged to put over $10 billion collectively into their achievement.
To mark the halfway point toward their 2025 target, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has released a report evaluating the progress of the organizations participating in the Global Commitment.
The report reveals that businesses committed to the Global Commitment have “significantly outperformed” their peers in confronting plastic waste, showing that, as the MacArthur Foundation writes, “a concerted effort can unlock change.”
“They [Global Commitment signatories] have reduced their use of several plastic items commonly identified as problematic or avoidable; stabilised their use of virgin plastics – avoiding nearly three million tonnes of virgin plastics production a year compared to business as usual; and more than doubled their share of recycled content. The latter achievement is avoiding more than two million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year and keeping one barrel of oil in the ground every two seconds,” the EMF report asserts.
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However, despite the progress made by signatories, the report found that they are still “likely to miss key 2025 targets.”
“Just as it is important to acknowledge the progress made, it is important to acknowledge that the Global Commitment and its signatories will likely not realise all the 2025 ambitions they set out with,” the report authors write.
Given this and the fact that a “large part” of the industry is not yet taking action, the EMF report concludes that the world is “off track to eliminate plastic waste and pollution.”
So, what needs to be done?
The report says we need “more, and more ambitious, binding policy measures, as well as accelerated voluntary business action,” describing a global, legally binding treaty as the “best prospect for rapid and systemic worldwide impact.”
“By putting in place legally binding global rules and measures, an international legally binding instrument can ensure that all countries act in concert to unlock circular economy solutions to end plastic pollution. In parallel to the negotiation of the instrument, governments should also ramp up the implementation of effective regulations in their own jurisdictions,” the report authors write.