Can CEOs Help With Plastic Waste?

It’s no secret that the world’s oceans are filled with plastic bottles and plastic debris clogs up global landfills. But a new focus on putting the responsibly for fixing the world’s plastics crisis squarely on the shoulders of some of the world’s largest plastics  users aims to change that. Can CEOs help with plastic waste?  We’re going to find out.

Thirty-six members of The Consumer Goods Forum commit to curb plastic pollution problem in new CEO-led Plastic Waste Coalition of Action. With development of first two “Golden Design Rules,” companies with a collective annual revenue of more than 1 trillion euros aim to reduce plastic use and improve recyclability by phasing out problematic materials, colours and labels from their packaging

Demonstrating global leadership in the consumer goods industry’s effort to tackle the plastic pollution challenge and help advance a world where no plastic waste ends up in nature, the Plastic Waste Coalition of Action from The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) today announces the first critical advances made by Coalition members to transform the industry’s relationship with plastic packaging.

Focused on key packaging design changes and the development of a framework for optimal Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes, these actions illustrate the Coalition’s leading role in the industry to reduce plastic waste by driving tangible, scalable actions that will impact the quality and recyclability of plastic packaging, and support waste management schemes around the world.

The development of the new Coalition earlier this year builds on the CGF’s 2018 endorsement of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The Coalition’s vision of driving progress towards the New Plastics Economy is embodied in its four main priorities:

  • adopting plastic packaging design guidelines to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging, and increase its value, quality and recyclability;
  • aligning on a framework for EPR programmes to support the improvement and development of waste management systems worldwide;
  • supporting recycling innovations; and
  • piloting new programmes in advanced and transitional markets to increase recycling rates.

Advancing on their first priority, Coalition members have finalised the first two of a series of “Golden Design Rules” for the design of plastic packaging which are designed to accelerate progress towards their aim of using less and better plastic. These rules aim to help reduce the complexity of the recycling process for different types of materials, thereby increasing recycling rates. These first two focus on increasing the value of PET bottle recycling and removing problematic elements from packaging, such as carbon black, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and EPS (expanded polystyrene), which complicate the recycling process. Consumers will be able to see the impact of these changes as everyday products such as single-use bottles, toiletries, household cleaning supplies, food wrappers and take-away containers will be packaged in materials that can be recycled more easily.

Coalition members from around the world, with a shared revenue of more than 1 trillion euros and representing more than 10 percent of the global plastic packaging market, have committed to adopting these rules wherever possible by 2025.

These commitments come after identifying and prioritising opportunities in their packaging portfolios where they can make targeted and valuable impact. They also commit to reporting on their implementation of the rules through a simple process aligned with Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment reporting. Details of what these first two rules entail and which members have adopted them are available on the Coalition’s website.

Additionally, Coalition members have released a new position paper, “Building a Circular Economy for Packaging: A View from the Consumer Goods Industry on Optimal Extended Producer Responsibility,” which provides a framework for the development and implementation of EPR programmes around the world. Recognising that the industry can’t achieve a circular economy working on its own, the Coalition supports the development of EPR programmes as a way to help facilitate industry and government collaboration on improved waste management. Coalition members will be able to use this framework to guide their engagement with markets around the world and help provide effective support for local recycling schemes. The paper is available for download on the Coalition’s website.

These actions on both Design and EPR are overseen by the Coalition’s leadership. The Coalition is sponsored at the CGF Board level by Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever, and Galen Weston, Executive Chairman, Loblaw Companies Limited. Its Steering Committee is co-chaired by Barry Parkin, Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer, Mars, Incorporated, and Robert Nicol, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Walmart Canada.

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever, said, “We must urgently take action to stop plastic waste and move to a circular model. This is the number one priority for us as a Coalition. No one business can achieve this on its own, which is why we’ve joined forces to drive change across our own industry and to hopefully set an example for other sectors.”

The 36 member companies of the Plastic Waste Coalition are: Amcor, Barilla, Bel Group, Beijing Hualian Group, Carrefour, The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dairy Farm, Essity, Grupo Bimbo, GSK, Henkel, ICA, Jerónimo Martins, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, Kao Corporation, Land O’Lakes, L’Oréal, Loblaw Companies Limited, Mars, Incorporated, Merck Animal Health, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, NTUC Fairprice, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Rewe Group, Sainsbury’s, SC Johnson, SIG Combibloc Group, Tetra Pak, Unilever PLC, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart.

We like the idea of holding the CEOs of the companies which prosper the most from plastics accountable for slowing down plastic waste.