• Picture: Bo Eide.
    Picture: Bo Eide.

The era of unbridled usage of plastic packaging is coming to an end, as some of the world's biggest food and drink companies, along with major packaging providers, have pledged a global crackdown on plastic pollution, with tangible targets on the table.

The commitment is sponsored by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme. Dame MacArthur said the New Plastics Global Commitment “drew a line in the sand” and presented a clear path to a circular economy for plastic.

Signing up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment has committed the companies to ensure 100 per cent of all plastic packaging to be easily reused, recycled or composted, by 2025.

The Commitment signed also directs companies to eliminate problematic or unnecessary packaging and move from single use packaging to reuse.

As part of the Commitment business have agreed to publish annual data on their progress. Targets will be reviewed every 18 months, and will be come increasingly ambitious over the years ahead.

The signatories in Bali represent 20 per cent of all plastic packaging produced around the world. The Commitment is supported by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and is endorsed by the World Economic Forum.

The pledge – driven by the need to counter rapidly rising levels of plastic pollution in the world's oceans – was signed by more than 250 organisations at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, which was attended by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on behalf of the Australian government.

Among the companies to sign were some of the biggest businesses on the planet, including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Mars, L'Oreal, PepsiCo and Unilever, with the world's biggest packaging business Amcor signing, as did packaging material supplier Mondi.

Dame MacArthur said: “We know that cleaning up plastics from our beaches and oceans is vital, but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment draws a line in the sand, with businesses, governments and others around the world uniting behind a clear vision for what we need to create a circular economy for plastic.

“This is just one step on what will be a challenging journey, but one which can lead to huge benefits for society, the economy and the environment. I encourage all businesses and governments to go further and embark on a race to the top in the creation of a circular economy for plastic. One in which this material never becomes waste or pollution.”

However the conference made it clear that plastic would continue to play a major part in the delivery of goods and products. Speaking at the Bali conference Ron Delia, CEO of Amcor said, “Plastic packaging is vital for products used by billions of consumers around the globe. It is highly effective and easy to adapt, so that those products are safe, nutritious and effective.

“We are constantly innovating to make plastic packaging even better, including in protecting the environment.” Delia highlighted Amcor's latest breakthrough, a flexible-plastic film that provides high-barrier protection, to be used in sterilised packaging and which is recyclable.

To enhance collection and reuse of plastic packaging, Delia said, Amcor is collaborating with other organisations “to close a critical gap in available waste-management and recycling systems in much of the world.”

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