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The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action

Plastics have become an integral part of the global economy, but despite their indisputable benefits, plastics have significant economic and environmental drawbacks. These negative impacts are sources of concern for business and government, who are recognizing the need to rethink the global plastic system.

In January 2016, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics report by the World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Co. made transparent for the first time global plastic material flows and their economics. The study found that globally only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, and by 2050 oceans could contain more plastics than fish (by weight). Providing a vision for a more effective system based on circular economy principles, the report spurred the creation of an ambitious New Plastics Economy initiative, bringing together leading businesses, philanthropists and policymakers to make this vision a reality, and a new report that outlines a set of concrete actions: The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action.

Launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017, this new research sets out three strategies which will lead to the rate of reuse and recycling of 70% of plastic packaging increasing from today's recycling rate of just 14%:

  • Fundamental redesign and innovation is required for small format plastic packaging (sachets, tear-offs, lids, sweet wrappers etc.) that represent 30% of the market by weight and that often escape collection systems, ending up in the environment 
  • Reuse could be economically attractive for at least 20% of plastic packaging, for example by replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable alternatives
  • Recycling represents an important economic opportunity for 50% of plastic packaging if improvements are made both to the design of plastic packaging and to the systems for managing it after use.
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