Greenpeace urges F&B leaders to shift to reuse tactics after virgin plastic increase
03 Nov 2022 --- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) released its Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report revealing that the member companies will miss key 2025 targets while returning to virgin plastic usage comparable to 2018.
Although many businesses in the group have made strides to reduce their plastic usage with aims toward a more circular system, Greenpeace blames the surge of virgin plastic and distance from the goal on the biggest corporations, pleading for governments to join the UN’s Global Plastic Treaty.
Companies “pretend to address the issue while producing even more plastic. This report is the latest proof that what they’ve been doing is not working,” Graham Forbes, Greenpeace’s USA global plastics project leader, tells PackagingInsights.
“Instead of tackling the plastic pollution crisis, big brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Mars increased the amount of plastic they create since the EMF Global Commitment was launched in 2018. The reality is that these companies work hand-in-hand with big oil and still depend on fossil-fuel-based plastic to make a profit.”
The Global Commitment and Plastic Pact network comprises over 1,000 businesses, governments and organizations that account for over 20% of the plastic packaging market.
According to the report, the set target of achieving 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025 will “almost certainly” not be met.
The report states that businesses need to “accelerate action, particularly around reuse, flexible packaging and decoupling business growth from packaging use.”
While reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging increased by 1.7% to 65.4%, this percentage varies widely across signatories from below 20% to 100%.
Additionally, brands and retailers have significantly increased their total plastic packaging use (+4.3%) in 2021 versus 2020.
A positive from the report includes brand and retail signatories more than doubling their use of PCR content over the past three years (from 4.8% to 10.%). Their combined 2025 target (26%) remains within reach with an acceleration of efforts.
A minority (23%) of the members are on track to meet the 2025 goals. EMF suggests incorporating PCR content in more challenging packaging types, such as food-contact packaging for companies that are not on target.
Virgin plastic increase
The groups that increased their total and virgin plastic use the most include a few of the most prominent plastic packaging users. The top companies contributing to plastic waste by metric tons are Coca Cola (3,224k), PepsiCo (2,500k) and Nestlé (920k).
These numbers demonstrate significant contributions to plastic waste and the creation of virgin plastic from the F&B industry.
“These big brands have been promoting false solutions like recycling and a switch from one throwaway material to another. We are in a plastic pollution and climate crisis – and the false solutions will simply not solve the plastic problem,” says Forbes.
“Big brands like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever must phase out throwaway plastic, ensure at least half of their packaging is reusable by 2030 and advocate for a strong global plastics treaty that limits plastic production and use, laying a foundation for a transition to reuse,” he continues.
However, most businesses (59%) reduced their virgin plastic use from 2018 to 2021. Those working toward reducing their plastic usage are shifting to recyclable plastics, but Forbes recommends reuse as a better solution.
“The emphasis on recycled plastic distracts from the real solution: switching to systems of refill and reuse – and this is what they urgently need to do.”
Throughout, the report stresses on governmental action to enact change. The EMF claims that government signatories implement legal measures such as bans, restrictions, implementation of reuse models and more to drive plastic waste elimination.
The foundation states that governments enacting rules on plastic use will significantly impact overall plastic waste reduction, forcing companies to follow suit with new legislation.
“Governments need to take immediate action to accelerate progress and have the opportunity to promote a high ambition level in upcoming negotiations for a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution,” states the report.
Forbes echoed this point when speaking with us, highlighting the importance of the global plastic treaty being adopted by numerous countries.
“The EMF report underlines the need for governments to ensure that the global plastic treaty, which starts negotiations shortly, delivers major reductions in plastic production and use and accelerates a just transition to the reuse economy we need.”
“The plastics treaty offers big brands a major opportunity to support meaningful reductions in plastic and a framework that will help them transition their businesses toward reuse-based delivery models,” Forbes concludes.
By Sabine Waldeck
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