WWF report notes drop in major plastics footprint but calls for stricter legislation
09 Dec 2022 --- The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released its yearly plastic footprint report, Transparent 2022, through the organization’s ReSource initiative, which helps major corporations track and demonstrate progress on their plastics reductions. The findings show an overall decrease in problematic plastics by 3,100 metric tons and a 35% increase in the use of recycled content.
ReSource members include Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Keurig Dr. Pepper, McDonald’s Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, The Coca-Cola Company and CVS Health.
WWF notes that “members have taken critical actions to support the wide-scale adoption of reuse systems while advocating to advance a global plastic treaty and investing in innovative solutions and business models to support the transition to circularity.”
However, the total tonnage of plastic produced by these companies increased by 5.3% in 2021, due in part to a rebound in volumes after pandemic-related declines, according to WWF.
Talking to PackagingInsights, Greenpeace USA’s global plastics project lead Graham Forbes says, “the report itself is a good indication that calls for transparency in plastic production reporting is being heeded by the corporations involved.”
“However, this is a very small representation of plastic-polluting companies like Nestle, Coca-Cola and Pepsi that need to be held accountable for their excessive production. We need to stop entertaining false solutions like chemical recycling and incineration and demand companies end their reliance on the fossil fuel industry, deliver major reductions in plastic production and use, and help accelerate a just transition to the reuse economy we need.”
How resourceful is ReSource?
ReSource was launched in 2019 to encourage 100 companies to prevent up to 50 million metric tons of plastic waste by promoting transparency through data trackers.
The Transparent reporting series is the primary reporting tool to support ReSource’s effort to close this gap by helping companies measure, maximize, and multiply their potential for impact on the plastic waste crisis.
Through a measurement framework that examines year-over-year changes in ReSource Members’ plastic footprints, the annual publication provides recommendations for action that can catalyze systems change, both internal to company supply chains and across wider multi-stakeholder efforts.
However, Forbes says more is needed. “We are not surprised by the findings of this report. Companies are not doing enough to end their reliance on plastic.”
“We have heard a lot of celebrated pledges and commitments from big brands, but if they are truly serious in tackling the plastics crisis, they 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 significantly reduces plastic production and use, including banning sachets,” he asserts.
Measurement to legislation
WWF says that while companies can and should continue accelerating progress in their direct supply chains, the report also stresses the importance of continuing advocacy for systemic change.
“Policy changes at local, regional, national, and international levels can help members achieve higher rates of recycled content, materials recovery and reduce mismanagement. These considerations must be part of each company’s holistic plastic portfolio to maximize their individual efforts,” asserts the organization.
“ReSource members are taking their plastic waste footprint seriously and being transparent about how they are working to address it. Measurement and data sharing are critical first steps. The next, more challenging step is ramping up the pace of progress,” says Erin Simon, vice president and head of plastic waste and business at WFF.
Forbes adds that global policy changes, as are being negotiated currently by the UN, must be enforced to drive further progression. “The report reinforces the need for regulatory efforts to focus upstream. Plastics pollute from extraction to disposal, and massively decreasing plastic production is essential to addressing plastic pollution,” he says.
Profits from progress
With the UN global plastics treaty underway and the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive introducing strict new measures, Forbes highlights that major companies involved in initiatives like ReSource should see financial potential in driving plastic reductions further.
“The report also highlights the business opportunities related to the emerging reuse-based economy, which regulations can help accelerate by establishing clear standards and incentives.”
“To fully address the plastic pollution crisis on a global scale, we urgently need governments around the world to implement national policies and support an ambitious global plastics treaty that limits plastic production and use and establishes the terms for big brands to phase out single-use plastic,” Forbes continues.
This week, PepsiCo announced it aims to deliver 20% of its drinks in reusable packaging. “These commitments are a start but need to go much further and be accompanied by targets to reduce overall plastic use.”
“Further, these companies need to increase their support and investment in achieving an ambitious global plastics treaty that dramatically cuts virgin plastic production, bans the most harmful plastics, including sachets, and sets clear guidelines for a just transition to a reuse-based economy.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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