Organizations involved with the World Wildlife Fund’s ReSource: Plastic program cut their use of problematic plastic, including hard-to-recycle and single-use plastics, by 57% between 2018 and 2020, according to a new report by the WWF.
The reduction by those involved with the program, which includes companies such as Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, amounted to 71,000 metric tons. The report says there were promising results in eliminating unnecessary plastic as well as the advancement of reusability, which can help slow the demand for single-use items.
McDonald’s, for example, started using wooden utensils and stir sticks in its Canada restaurants this year and hopes to eliminate plastic straws there entirely by the end of 2021. The report also highlights how Starbucks went to strawless lids in the United States and Canada and has reduced small plastic use by 5% since 2018.
The report shows that members of the program were doing a better job overall with plastic waste and recycling than worldwide numbers overall show. It says that 31% of members plastic footprint was recycled in 2020 compared to a global average of 14%.
Of all the recyclable content, though, 96% of it was from bottles.
“Businesses have been talking about the plastic pollution problem for some time, which is an important step, but it’s now time to ask the tough questions: what have you done and is it really making a difference?” said Sheila Bonini, senior vice president of private sector engagement for WWF.
A recent Research and Markets report says the global plastic recycling market is expect to $47.3 billion by 2026 as plastic pollution continues to be major a concern globally. The WWF says the cost of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifecycle of plastics is $171 billion and the lifetime societal cost of plastics is $7.1 trillion
An area that could use improvement was incorporating recycled content into plastic that can’t be eliminated, the report says. That shows the need for continued investment in to build the recycled materials supply chain, the WWF says.
The use of recycled materials by organizations in the program grew from 7.8% to 9.6% during the analyzed period. Coca-Cola has made inroads here, with its use of PET recyclables growing to 11% according to the report, and 90% of the company’s current portfolio is recyclable.
As goals to reduce plastic waste grows, the report highlights efforts to address the problem. There is a new organization called the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, which has awarded 13 grants to increase recycling of the plastic in the United States. The American Beverage Association has committed $12.5 million to modernize PET recycling. That effort is expected to make 693 million pounds of PET recycled content available over the next decade.
The WWF also calls for organizations to participate in continued action to reduce and reuse plastic. That includes more investment into recycling systems and to support policy interventions. It also says there needs to be standardized data and recommends a global treaty on plastic pollution.
The ReSource program also added members in Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive and Kimberly-Clark.