Report Plots Course to New Plastics Economy

It envisions a global economy in which plastics never become waste. If this systemic change can't be realized, the potential damage will be severe -- given the projected growth in consumption and a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 the world's oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by weight.

A new report on "The New Plastics Economy" by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, offers guidance for overcoming the negatives currently present in the plastics/plastic packaging value chain, but it warns that achieving this will require major collaborative efforts by many parties -- including consumer goods companies; plastic packaging producers; plastics manufacturers; businesses involved in collection, sorting, and reprocessing; cities; policymakers; and NGOs.

If this systemic change can't be realized, the potential damage will be severe -- given the projected growth in consumption and a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 the world's oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by weight, and the entire plastics industry will consume 20 percent of total oil production and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget, according to the foundation's news release about the report.

The report envisions a global economy in which plastics never become waste and describes the steps needed to achieve it. The report was financially supported by the MAVA Foundation and produced as part of Project MainStream, a multi-industry initiative that aims to accelerate business-driven innovations to help scale the circular economy.

The report says currently most plastic packaging is used only once, and 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material (worth $80-120 billion annually) is lost to the economy.

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