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Plastic waste and pollution have captured the attention of the public, governments, and businesses around the world. Along with the search for solutions that can be scaled up, there is growing recognition that addressing the symptoms of this crisis through clean-ups is not enough. We need to move away from today’s linear take-make-waste model and fundamentally rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics. A systemic shift tackling the root causes is required: a transition towards a circular economy for plastic, in which it never becomes waste or pollution.
The 2016 and 2017 New Plastics Economy reports captured worldwide headlines and became global reference points. They have played an important role in shifting the global debate on plastics, mobilising a systemic shift towards the common vision for a circular economy for plastic, with industry commitments, government policies, and increased public awareness reinforcing each other on the path to making it a reality.
Leveraging the success of the reports, over the past four years, the New Plastics Economy initiative has been rallying businesses and governments behind this common vision of a circular economy for plastic. Run in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, policymakers, academics, NGOs, and citizens, the initiative has brought together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. Today, the New Plastics Economy initiative is catalysing change within the plastics sector through its vision for a circular economy for plastic, which unites more than 850 organisations. Central to the initiative and widely endorsed, the vision is supported by three key actions: eliminate, innovate, circulate.
With an explicitly systemic and collaborative approach, the New Plastics Economy initiative aims to overcome the limitations of today’s incremental improvements and fragmented initiatives, many focused solely on downstream solutions. The initiative’s main goals are to create a shared sense of direction and to spark a wave of action and innovation in order to set the world on an irreversible path towards a circular economy where plastics never become waste.
The initiative’s systemic approach is based on five interlinked and mutually reinforcing elements:
1. Dialogue Mechanism
Cross-value chain collaboration to solve challenges that no organisation can address on its own.
The plastics initiative works with a varied group of organisations to drive collaborative projects, including global consumer goods companies, retailers, packaging manufacturers, and plastic producers, along with businesses involved in collection, sorting, and reprocessing. A joint philanthropic-business advisory board is also part of the initiative, contributing towards ensuring the inclusion of a wide set of social, environmental, and business considerations.
2. The Global Commitment
Aligning stakeholders with a common vision and set of concrete targets.
In October 2018, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment was launched, uniting more than 450 organisations behind a common vision and an ambitious set of targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source, by 2025. Signatories include companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as governments, NGOs, universities, industry associations, investors, and other organisations.
In 2019, the first annual Global Commitment progress report was published, providing an unprecedented level of transparency on how these signatories are reshaping the plastics system.
3. The Plastics Pact
Driving the implementation of the common vision in a concerted way around the world.
The Plastics Pact is a network of local and regional (cross-border) initiatives that bring together key stakeholders to implement solutions towards a circular economy for plastics. Each initiative is led by a local organisation and unites governments, businesses, and citizens behind a common vision with an ambitious set of local targets. Since its launch, the Plastics Pact has proven to be a unique platform to exchange learnings and best practices across regions, accelerating the transition to a circular economy for plastic.
Continuously developing the knowledge that underpins the initiative and catalysing innovation to redefine what is possible.
Radical innovation is critical to enable businesses and governments to deliver on their targets. Building on the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, the initiative continues to catalyse innovation and push the thinking towards scalable solutions for a circular economy for plastic.
5. Outreach and stakeholder engagement
Engaging with the key stakeholders to learn, inform, and amplify what works.
Businesses, policymakers, investors, NGOs, academics, designers, innovators, citizens, industry associations, and others all play a role in transitioning to a new system. The initiative learns from, informs, and engages all these stakeholders. As a globally respected voice on circular economy and plastic, the initiative drives further outreach and stakeholder engagement, disseminating the vision of a circular economy for plastics around the world.
The New Plastics Economy initiative continues to work with stakeholders across the plastic packaging value chain to fundamentally change global flows of plastic packaging material by 2025, setting the global economy on an irreversible path towards a circular economy for plastic.