Material Monday Sustainable Series Insight: New Plastics Economy Global Commitment

Material Monday Sustainable Series Insight: New Plastics Economy Global Commitment

Posted 6 May 2019 by Katie Kubrak

Changing our habits, design mind set, and production is no longer a choice. It is a must. With this comes the big – HOW? For us, it’s similar. We often find ourselves scratching our heads trying to answer the same question. What are the more sustainable material alternatives? How can we ensure most environmentally conscious use of manufacturing techniques and most efficient use of resources?

In terms of materials and production, we are gradually finding our way through this complex landscape and arriving at some answers. As on all other matters, we are blessed with the opportunity to consult with most respected visionaries on the planet. In result we want to share that knowledge in the “Material Monday Sustainable Series”, which will be a mix of materials and insights that are curated to help out in your practice.

Today, we start by introducing you to The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment report, which aims to unite businesses, governments, and other organisations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source and ensure that plastics never become waste. It is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment. To help bring this vision into reality, all signatories of the report committed to a set of ambitious 2025 targets. Each of the endorsers will work to:

  • Eliminate the plastic items we don’t need
  • Innovate so all plastics we do need are designed to be safely reused, recycled, or composted
  • Circulate everything we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.

In this report signatories accounted for over 350 organisations, which all recognise environmental, economic and societal benefits of the New Plastics vision, while acknowledging the root causes to plastic pollution. They all vouch to work to the following six guidelines (which we cite from the report):

1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority

2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging

a. While improving recycling is crucial, we cannot recycle our way out of the plastics issues we currently face.

b. Wherever relevant, reuse business models should be explored as a preferred ‘inner loop’, reducing the need for single-use plastic packaging.

3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable

a. This requires a combination of redesign and innovation in business models, materials, packaging design, and reprocessing technologies.

b. Compostable plastic packaging is not a blanket solution, but rather one for specific, targeted applications.

4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice

a. No plastics should end up in the environment. Landfill, incineration, and waste-to-energy are not part of the circular economy target state.

b. Businesses producing and/or selling packaging have a responsibility beyond the design and use of their packaging, which includes contributing towards it being collected and reused, recycled, or composted in practice.

c. Governments are essential in setting up effective collection infrastructure, facilitating the establishment of related self- sustaining funding mechanisms, and providing an enabling regulatory and policy landscape.

5. The use of plastics is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources

a. This decoupling should happen first and foremost through reducing the use of virgin plastics (by way of dematerialisation, reuse, and recycling).

b. Using recycled content is essential (where legally and technically possible) both to decouple from finite feedstocks and to stimulate demand for collection and recycling.

c. Over time, remaining virgin inputs (if any) should switch to renewable feedstocks where proven to be environmentally beneficial and to come from responsibly managed sources.

d. Over time, the production and recycling of plastics should be powered entirely by renewable energy.

6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected

a. The use of hazardous chemicals in packaging and its manufacturing and recycling processes should be eliminated (if not done yet).

b. It is essential to respect the health, safety, and rights of all people involved in all parts of the plastics system, and particularly to improve worker conditions in informal (waste picker) sectors.

Above outlined guidelines cross reference many of our findings, and therefore, we believe it should serve as a great starting point to any design project that aims to create for mindful disposal practices.

Alongside online Material Monday Sustainable Series, we launch a “Sustainable Series – Eco Excite” an on-site exhibition in our Material Library. It’s open to all and feel free to pop in anytime. As sometimes, we may run workshops in the space, if you want to be sure the space isn’t booked before to arrive, feel free to email us. You may alternatively wish to book a workshop for your creative team, also do get in touch.

Above: Signatories of New Plastics Economy Global Commitment by category (%).