The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) Global Commitment progress report has once again revealed several FMCG giants are woefully behind on their 2025 sustainable plastic use targets.
While the report shows good headway on some metrics such as an increasing share of post-consumer recycled content (PCR) across all plastic packaging used, overall progress has been held back by a “few large organisations”.
For example, the majority of the EMF Global Commitment’s signatories (65%) have reduced their virgin plastic packaging since 2018 (with the top quartile even collectively reducing it by 13%), but the actions of a few FMCG giants have meant that overall virgin plastic use has remained relatively flat over the past five years.
Notable laggards include Mars, which increased its use of virgin plastic by 14% in 2022 compared to 2019, and PepsiCo, which used 10% more in 2022 compared to 2020. Beverage giant The Coca-Cola Company used 8% more virgin plastic packaging in 2022 compared to 2019.
The signatory group as a whole remains off track to deliver their reduction target of ~21%.
Some progress was made by Nestlé, which achieved a 10% reduction in virgin plastic use in 2022 compared to 2018, but the share of its plastic packaging that was reusable, recyclable and compostable decreased from 55% to 51% over the same four-year period.
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Almost universal progress was made in the realm of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. Nestlé increased the share of PCR content across total plastic packaging by 7.5%, while PepsiCo increased its share by 4.3%.
The EMF warns that, despite progress on some metrics, “the global community is still way off course in the pursuit of eradicating plastic waste and pollution.”
Indeed, 80% of the global plastic packaging market is not covered by the Global Commitment and is performing, on average, much worse than the 20% who have signed up. For example, the top quartile of all brand and retail signatories that were using PVC or EPS packaging in 2020 have eliminated 92% and 100% of these packaging materials respectively. Over the same period, global use of PVC and EPS has grown by over 3%.
To spark more profound and wide-reaching change, the EMF suggests the need for “legally binding global rules and measures” and for governments to implement regulations in their own jurisdictions that complement voluntary business action. The Foundation also emphasises the importance of replicating, scaling and mandating plastic waste solutions that industry leaders have already demonstrated to be possible.
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