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Plastic action ‘not keeping pace with ambition’: report

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies are identified as an indicator of improved overall plastic performance.
Melodie Michel
Plastic action ‘not keeping pace with ambition’: report
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash

An analysis of 225 large companies has found that while most have plastic reduction or recycling goals, a majority are not on track to meet them, with plastic use still increasing in line with business growth.

The 2024 Plastic Promises Scorecard, published by non-profit As You Sow in collaboration with environmental solution platform Ubuntoo, ranked companies’ performance on plastic pollution according to six pillars: recyclability, reduction, recycled content, recovery, reuse, and extended producer responsibility (ERP – a policy that makes producers responsible for the end-of-life of their products).

Each of the 225 companies researched received an ‘overall plastic packaging score’ based on an ‘overall ambition score’ (analysing their goals) and an ‘overall action score’ (looking at what they are doing to meet them).

Most companies were found to have goals for recyclability, reduction, and recycled content, an increasing number support EPR policies – which the report identifies as an indicator of improved overall plastic performance.

However, plastic use intensity is not budging yet, as for many companies plastic use continues to increase as revenue increases. “Virgin plastic reduction goals alone are insufficient. To decrease plastic use intensity (plastic use per $ of revenue), corporations must substantially increase action across all pillars discussed in this report, including use of recycled content, end-of-life recovery, substitution with reusable packaging, and EPR for a circular economy,” the report notes.

This was also evidenced in December last year, when the ReSource: Plastics progress report showed that six of the nine companies committed to reducing plastic use through the initiative reported increases in plastic tonnage.

Moreover, action is not keeping pace with ambition, as most corporations are not on track to meet the goals they have set.

Plastic reduction: leaders and laggards

No industry stood out as a leader on plastics, though the cosmetics sector showed more ambitious goals than the rest.

Source: 2024 Plastic Promises Scorecard

However, top companies were identified in nearly every industry, demonstrating ambitious goals and consistent action across most, or even all, pillars.

Top-scoring companies include fashion brand Stella McCartney, which got an A+ for the recyclability of its packaging, manufacturer SC Johnson, which scored particularly high on plastic reduction, fast fashion e-commerce ASOS, which got the top score in recycled content, beverage giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo for their recovery and reuse initiatives, and Keurig Dr Pepper for embracing EPR policies.

Source: 2024 Plastic Promises Scorecard

“Companies can use the recommendations and scoring methodology in the Plastic Promises Scorecard to prepare for a future where plastic packaging pollution is no longer an acceptable part of doing business,” said Kelly McBee, lead author of the report and circular economy manager at As You Sow. “This report is designed to be actionable and transparent, giving companies the tools and solutions they need to create a circular economy for plastic.”

US Plastics Pact delays targets to 2030

Reducing plastic waste remains one of the most challenging aspects of sustainability action, and progress is slow for everyone. This week, the US Plastics Pact, an initiative gathering more than 70 large companies to cut plastic waste, unveiled its ‘Roadmap 2.0’, delaying its 100% recyclability and 30% recycled or biobased content targets from 2025 to 2030.

“Roadmap 2.0 is not just a continuation; it’s an evolution. Our initial targets were intentionally ambitious to spark rapid change. With Roadmap 2.0, we’re taking what we have learned and succeeded to the next level, focusing on innovative solutions and addressing broader impacts. We are committed to working collaboratively with our activators and stakeholders to make these targets a reality,” said Emily Tipaldo, Executive Director of the U.S. Plastics Pact.

Read also: Lego scraps recycled PET bricks, Coca-Cola to make bottle caps from CO2 – What’s the emissions impact of recycled plastics?