RPA Endorses New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Led by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

At the Fall Board of Directors meeting, the RPA Board voted unanimously to endorse the “New Plastics Economy Global Commitment” as led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme.  “The Ellen MacArthur Foundation approached RPA to support the global initiative towards a circular economy for plastics, and after concluding its consistency with RPA’s mission, the RPA Board agreed for the Association to publicly join this growing network of leading businesses and government agencies advocating this cause,” Norm Kukuk of ORBIS Corporation and RPA Chair, stated in the Association’s October newsletter.

On Monday, October 29, at the  Our Oceans Conference in Bali, the Foundation released the news of the Global Commitment launch and the over 275 organizations who have signed up, including RPA.

Norm Kukik, ORBIS Corporation

Norm Kukuk of ORBIS Corporation, RPA Chair

The Global Commitment and its vision for a circular economy for plastic are supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and have been endorsed by the World Economic Forum, The Consumer Goods Forum (a CEO-led organisation representing some 400 retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries), and 40 universities, institutions and academics. More than 15 financial institutions with in excess of $2.5 trillion in assets under management have also endorsed the Global Commitment and over $200 million has been pledged by five venture capital funds to create a circular economy for plastic.

The Global Commitment aims to create ‘a new normal’ for plastic packaging. Targets will be reviewed every 18 months, and become increasingly ambitious over the coming years. Businesses that sign the commitment will publish annual data on their progress to help drive momentum and ensure transparency.

Targets include:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models
  • Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025
  • Circulate the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused or recycled and made into new packaging or products

Eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastics is an essential part of the Global Commitment vision, and will make it easier to keep remaining plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

Kukuk continued: “Chief among the characteristics motivating RPA’s endorsement is found in the second point of the common vision: “Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging.”  This statement calls for companies to explore reuse business models “as a preferred ‘inner loop,'” then followed by activities such as refurbishment, repair and remanufacture before the outermost loop of recycling, which is the hierarchy of steps in sustainable material management in a circular economy.

“The vision in which reuse is the most preferred approach to transport packaging is also the core of RPA messaging.  While RPA is endorsing the Global Commitment, the Global Commitment is also endorsing RPA and our reuse agenda.  RPA members have the expertise, products and services to design, build, implement and optimize reusable packaging systems.  For all businesses and governments seeking reusable solutions for transport packaging, RPA is the leading industry organization ready to help.

“RPA supports increasing the global visibility and reach of this effort.  Our voice in promoting reuse just got much louder around the world.  This will mean more visibility to the advantages of reuse. And new business opportunities for RPA members will continue to emerge.”

Signatories include companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally. Participants can be found at this link. They include well-known consumer businesses such as Danone; H&M group; L’Oréal; Mars, Incorporated; PepsiCo; The Coca-Cola Company; and Unilever; major packaging producers such as Amcor, plastics producers including Novamont, and resource management specialist Veolia.

“This campaign is very specific about trying to position away from single-use packaging and to incorporate or adopt more reusable packaging,” said Tim Debus, RPA President. “For us, it is a clear alignment as to what we do as an association, and what this campaign is speaking to, which is the reuse of materials, including packaging. We thought it was very well aligned with our mission. We believe we can offer support and expertise behind use models, especially for transport packaging. We are looking forward to explaining and demonstrating the advantages of reuse.”

“We know that cleaning up plastics from our beaches and oceans is vital, but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year,” said Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We need to move upstream to the source of the flow. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment draws a line in the sand, with businesses, governments and others around the world uniting behind a clear vision for what we need to create a circular economy for plastic. This is just one step on what will be a challenging journey, but one which can lead to huge benefits for society, the economy and the environment. I encourage all businesses and governments to go further and embark on a race to the top in the creation of a circular economy for plastic. One in which this material never becomes waste or pollution.”