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Enough is enough: Putting an end to single-use plastic

November 14, 2019

There is now unprecedented international co-operation to reduce single-use plastic and create a sustainable, recyclable economy. But will North American retailers keep up with the change of pace?

A number of consumer goods producers, retailers, recyclers, educators, governments and NGOs have stepped up to put a stake in the ground when it comes to ending single-use plastic.  Together, they have signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source. Signatories of the Global Commitment, which is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment, pledge they will:

“Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled or composted by 2025.”

What does this promise mean for these stakeholders?

  • Plastic packaging will be greatly reduced.
  • There won’t be any plastic made or sold that isn’t recyclable.
  • If there’s a type of plastic we use and sell that we don’t know how to recycle today, we’ll either get rid of it, or figure out how to recycle it by 2025.

This impressive global co-operation effort includes a group of international retailers that include Woolworths, Ahold Delhaize, Target, Carrefour, H&M, Pick& Pay and Walmart. It also includes multinational CPG companies that include Unilever, Colgate Palmolive, Coca-Cola, Danone, Diageo, Kelloggs, Pepsico, Nestle, Keurig-Dr.Pepper and Johnson & Johnson.

What’s missing from this list are American and Canadian retailers that trade in North America alone. Most of these retailers have made very few pledges beyond 2020. With only 15% of plastic being recycled today, change is certainly a daunting task. But American and Canadian consumers will be looking for their retailers to make similarly extraordinary efforts as well. None of them can do it alone, nor should they try. A bunch of small proprietary efforts won’t solve the plastic crisis: it will take the collective power of leaders around the planet.

The first initiative steps to this change have been taken. Let’s hope more retailers join the cause.

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