Project MainStream

Project MainStream is a cross-industry, CEO-led global initiative to accelerate business-driven innovation and help scale the circular economy.

MainStream aims to fast-track this transition by taking collaboration to a new level, focussing on stalemates that individual organisations cannot resolve.

Following the release of Towards the Circular Economy vol.3, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company, launched Project MainStream. This programme is currently composed of three distinct initiatives:

New plastics economy - global plastic packaging roadmap


The global plastic packaging roadmap (GPPR) aims to address endemic issues of the current linear plastics economy, and provide an action plan towards an economically and environmentally attractive alternative - a new plastics economy. It will do so by focusing on the root cause of the problem and accelerating systemic change through innovation and collaboration.

Mobilised in 2014 as part of Project MainStream, the GPPR initiative leverages the convening power of the World Economic Forum, the analytical capabilities of McKinsey & Company, and the circular economy expertise of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A steering board composed of nine global leading company CEOs has been established, and an extensive analysis and consultation process undertaken over the past 12 months to shape and build support for this initiative.

The GPPR works collaboratively with existing initiatives focused on ocean plastics waste including the Global Oceans Commission, Ocean Conservancy, the Prince’s Trust International Sustainability Unit, governmental institutions and policymakers. The project’s unique focus on systemic change complement and inform these initiatives.

By focusing on key segments of the plastics economy and packaging, collaborating with key actors across the value chain, the GPPR aims to establish an approach that can be applied across other material streams and will help inform how the transition to a circular economy can be accelerated at scale.

Intelligent assets


We are currently witnessing an explosion in the number of connected devices - the so called Internet of Things (IoT). The advent of IoT is already revolutionising the way businesses and consumers interact, and is set to reshape the future economy.

The mission of the Intelligent Assets initiative (a partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company) is to explore how the circular economy provides an opportunity for both developers and users of IoT by providing a lens through which to innovate and create new sources of value. The first phase of this work, in the form of a published report, will be presented at the World Economic Forum, Davos in January 2016.


Today, pulp and paper is a largely circular industry: recycled fiber constitutes almost 50% of paper globally and recovery rates approach practical limits in developed markets. However, supply of recycled fiber is being stretched by rising demand, driving up recycled cellulose fiber (RCF) costs and squeezing margins for recycled grades. This rising demand and the declining quality of collected RCF make it particularly important to capture remaining value leakage during collection, sorting, and processing.

Improved sorting and treatment of inks, additives, and contaminants could address such value leakage and increase the supply of RCF to meet new demand, thereby delivering up to an estimated $1.4 billion, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to an estimated 1.1 Mt as well as reducing forest land used for pulp and papermaking.

This project aims to facilitate these benefits by developing a set of pragmatic, efficient, eco-design rules for paper products, to give essential guidance for designers and developers without limiting innovation. The intention is to initiate an emerging global standard to prompt local regulations to follow.