On World Oceans Day, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report pinpointing new insights and concrete actions to address a critical issue facing marine ecosystems: global plastic pollution. In partnership with ReSource: Plastic Principal Members—Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, and The Coca-Cola Company—Transparent 2020 examines the plastic footprints of these leading global companies and provides a detailed look at the challenges and potential solutions for tackling the plastic pollution problem.
ReSource: Plastic is a first-of-its-kind effort to quantify corporate impact and track company actions and opportunities to reduce plastic waste. Through this collaboration, the inaugural report found these five companies collectively used 4.2 million metric tons of plastic in one year[i], of which only 8% was sourced from recycled material. While these figures represent the need to address infrastructure challenges around increasing recycled plastic—they also tell a story of partnership and transparency, which is critical to enabling meaningful progress to address the systemic issues on plastic waste. The Principal Members hope these efforts will inspire other companies to take similar action.
“In its first year, ReSource has begun to tap into the massive potential that companies have to become key levers that can actually help change the course of this global problem – but also their willingness and ability to act together,” said Sheila Bonini, senior vice president, private sector engagement, World Wildlife Fund. “Our Principal Members have shown an impressive dedication to transparency, providing data that will ultimately drive the accountability, collaboration and ambition needed to incentivize a movement toward comprehensive reporting and progress across the private sector.”
The report findings were calculated using the ReSource Footprint Tracker, an innovative methodology designed to fill a critical measurement gap companies have needed to effectively advance plastic sustainability. Following the lifecycle of plastic, the Footprint Tracker measures how much and what kind of plastic is being used, and where they are likely ending up upon disposal. Using the five Principal Member footprints as a baseline to track progress moving forward, WWF found four key areas for action:
- Eliminating unnecessary plastics:
- Building on efforts to reduce and redesign small plastics—which include familiar difficult-to-recycle items like utensils, coffee stirrers, straws, and closures. These are a significant category for three of the five ReSource members. Because small plastics are largely excluded from recycling streams, eliminating or finding substitute materials should remain a key priority for these companies.
- All five companies are exploring reusable packaging systems and services as an alternative for other high-volume, low-recyclability products like cups and utensils. To support the enabling conditions for this innovation, these companies should focus on setting and reporting reusability targets at the country level, collaborate with other companies on localized solutions and invest in consumer behavior change.
- Investing in sustainable production:
- Across the five companies, the average amount of recycled content used is only 8% – this highlights the challenges around existing infrastructure and an opportunity to invest in solutions that reduce virgin plastic use and increase recycled or sustainably-sourced biobased content.
- Doubling the global recycling rate:
- Developing action plans that focus on country-level opportunities. The United States represents the single biggest opportunity for recycling due to the high sales volumes of these companies coupled with limited recycling infrastructure and high landfill rate (72%).
- In particular, polypropylene recycling in the US is highlighted as a strong opportunity for increased recycling. The US recycling rate for polypropylene is close to zero (0.6% across all sectors and categories in 2017), and as the demand for quality recycled polypropylene far exceeds supply, collective action is needed to increase availability.
- Working to fill critical data gaps to improve the quality and precision of our understanding of the plastic waste system, specifically for country-level waste management data and through coordinated corporate data collection, pursuing consensus on shared language and best practices.
Launched last year, ReSource: Plastic aims to enlist 100+ companies by 2030 in the effort to reach the ultimate goal of preventing at least 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from entering nature. With increased company membership, ReSource is positioned to fill critical data gaps, break down silos, and help companies use a common measurement framework to identify shared problems and opportunities to collaborate and accelerate solutions. Today, WWF welcomes Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive and Kimberly-Clark as the newest members of ReSource.
In order to reach our vision of No Plastic in Nature, WWF is working with companies to take actions that will make the most impact. Together with ReSource thought partners, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) and Ocean Conservancy, and our implementation partner, the American Beverage Association, we will collectively work with the private sector to increase participation in ReSource: Plastic so we can close data gaps and design and deliver on actionable strategies to address the global plastic waste crisis.
“The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment has brought unprecedented transparency on industry action, highlighting progress on elimination of and innovation for plastic packaging,” said Sander Defruyt, lead of the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We welcome WWF’s inaugural ReSource: Plastic report as a step towards building further transparency on the circulation and after-use fate of plastic packaging across different geographies.”