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 increasing public awareness.


The New Plastics Economy:

Rethinking the future of plastics



The New Plastics Economy:

Catalysing action



2016 Report

Rethinking the Future of Plastics

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, launched the report The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics at the World Economic Forum in Davos. For the first time, the research provided the vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste.

The report, financially supported by the MAVA Foundation, was the result of a collaborative effort involving more than 40 participant companies and cities across the global plastic packaging value chain. It was produced as part of Project MainStream, and led by the CEOs of nine global companies.

The report acknowledges that, while plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, their value chains currently entail significant drawbacks.

The report finds that:

  1. Most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth USD 80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy
  2. Plastic packaging generates negative externalities, valued conservatively by UNEP at USD 40 billion: given projected growth in consumption, in a business-as-usual scenario oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050, and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget

In this context, an opportunity beckons for the plastics value chain to deliver better system-wide economic and environmental outcomes, while continuing to harness the benefits of plastic packaging.

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2017 Report

Catalysing Action

In 2017, the New Plastics Economy initiative launched their second report, The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action. This report provides a global action plan to move towards 70% reuse and recycling of plastic packaging, endorsed by over 40 industry leaders, while highlighting the need for fundamental redesign and innovation of the remaining 30%.

The report, developed by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from SYSTEMIQ, is the first to provide a clear transition strategy for the global plastics industry to design better packaging, increase recycling rates, and introduce new models for making better use of packaging.

The report finds that:

1. Without fundamental redesign and innovation, about 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled

2. For at least 20% of plastic packaging, reuse provides an economically attractive opportunity

3. With concerted efforts to redesign packaging and the systems for managing it after use, recycling would be economically attractive for the remaining 50% of plastic packaging

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