plastic bottle recycling
The U.S. Plastics Pact seeks to ensure the recyclability and increased recycling of plastic packaging by 2025.
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Update: Organizations announce plastic recycling initiative

U.S.-based The Recycling Partnership and U.K.-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation among those seeking 100 percent plastic packaging recyclability.

August 25, 2020

Several nongovernmental organizations are spearheading an initiative called the United States Plastics Pact, which aims to make all plastic packaging 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The creation of the U.S. Plastics Pact has been jointly announced by The Recycling Partnership, based in Falls Church, Virginia; the United Kingdom-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation; and the Switzerland-based World Wildlife Fund. The pact was announced at an online event hosted by Oakland, California-based Greenbiz Circularity.

The groups call the pact “an ambitious initiative to unify more than 70 diverse public-private stakeholders – ‘Activators of The Pact’ – across each part of the supply and plastics manufacturing chain to rethink the way we design, use and reuse plastics in order to create a path toward a circular economy for plastic in the U.S.”

The pact has identified four targeted results:

  • to define a list of packaging to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021, and to “take measures to eliminate them by 2025;” 
  • to ensure that by 2025, all plastic packaging is 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable;
  • to undertake what the pact calls “ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50 percent of plastic packaging” by 2025; and
  • to reach an average recycled content or “responsibly sourced bio-based content” in plastic packaging of 30 percent by 2025.

The organizers of the U.S. Plastics Pact say it was created in part because “individualized action has proven insufficient thus far in achieving significant, system-wide change. Reaching this specific vision will require new levels of innovation and collaboration from all ‘activators’ of the U.S. Plastics Pact and beyond.”

Several industry associations have joined the U.S. Plastics Pact, including the American Beverage Association (ABA) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

“As the voice of the recycling industry, ISRI is proud to be a founding member of the U.S. Plastics Pact,” says ISRI Vice President of Advocacy Adina Renee Adler. “The pact underscores ISRI’s long-standing efforts to inspire stakeholders throughout the plastics and recycling supply chains to commit to responsibly manufacture, collect and recycle plastics and plastic products.

“ISRI’s Design for Recycling principles encourage companies to proactively consider the ultimate destiny of their products during the design stage of a product’s development. Combining U.S. Plastics Pact goals with ISRI’s Design for Recycling principles should inspire producers to design with recycling in mind and to incorporate more recycled plastics in the manufacture of new products.”

“Through collaboration and innovation, our industry is leading with better way solutions to create a circular economy for our plastic bottles while helping to eliminate plastic in the environment,” says Katherine Lugar, ABA president and CEO. “We look forward to sharing our ideas and experience in sustainability with U.S. Plastics Pact members as we work together toward effective and sustainable solutions. Our shared goal will help us realize a world where plastic doesn’t end up where it was never intended to be.”

Companies to join the pact include plastics reprocessor PreZero US Inc., based in Los Angeles, and Kimberly-Clark, Neenah, Wisconsin. 

“PreZero US is proud to be a part of this monumental pact," says CEO Hernan de la Vega. "We view collaboration as a core element to success in developing closed-loop solutions, and joining the U.S. Plastics Pact is consistent with those values. We look forward to leading the charge towards the goal of reducing plastic waste in the U.S. to zero.”

"We aspire to be at the forefront of the transition to a circular, reuse economy and finding new ways of giving consumers the products they need," Kim Underhill, president of Kimberly-Clark's North American Consumer Business, says. "We realize getting there will take game-changing innovation, and we know we're up to the challenge to do more by joining the U.S. Plastics Pact." 

The pact emphasizes measurable change, and PreZero US and Kimberly-Clark say they are committed to transparent, annual reporting, guided by WWF’s ReSource: Plastic Footprint Tracker, which will be used to document annual progress against the pact's four goals. The first task of the founding "activators" of the U.S. Plastics Pact will be to establish a "roadmap" in the first quarter of 2021 to identify key milestones and national solutions to achieving the U.S. targets and realize a circular economy for plastics.