WWF: Major consumer goods giants only sourcing 8% recycled plastics

McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr Pepper and Procter & Gamble (P&G) collectively source 4.3 million metric tonnes of plastic annually, of which just 8% comes from recycled feedstocks.

The new report from WWF, released on Monday (8 June) to mark World Oceans Day.

Entitled ‘Transparent 2020’, the report tracks the plastics footprint of each of these five corporates, all founding members of the NGO’s ‘ReSource: Plastic’ initiative, to mark the scheme’s first anniversary. Under the scheme, corporate members are given access to a digital platform which enables them to develop specific actions on the road to reaching their long-term, large-scale ambitions to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics.

The platform is laid out across three key pillars, namely maximising, measuring and multiplying the impact which can be achieved if corporates “correctly” implement ambitious plastic plans.

The new report details how each of the five companies has used the digital tools and WWF’s other support to measure and manage their plastics footprint, and what the data collected reveals about the systematic challenges in the plastics industry.

It reveals that all five of the assessed companies are exploring refillable or reusable packaging systems to replace as much as 20% of their current portfolios, and have set time-bound, numerical targets for increasing both the recyclability of their packaging and the amount of recycled plastics they source.

Unanimous difficulty in making rapid progress against the latter of these aims, WWF concluded, points to systemic challenges in recycling infrastructure, collection systems and supply chains.

In order to address these challenges, the NGO is calling on ReSource members to set internal measures which disincentivise the use of virgin plastic and to collaborate in industry-wide lobbying for policies which will promote the availability and adoption of recycled content – such as the incoming requirements in the EU and the UK for plastic products to incorporate at least 30% recycled content, or face higher levels of tax.

The report also urges ReSource members to accelerate efforts to remove small, hard-to-recycle plastics such as straws and stirrers from their global portfolios; to work with industry bodies to boost plastic recycling rates in the US, currently stagnating around 9% and to develop ‘action plans’ for minimizing plastic pollution in the worst-affected nations, such as Mexico, China, India and the Philippines. Along with the US, the report reveals, 57.4% of the plastics from the analysed companies that are then landfilled end up in these geographies.

On the latter recommendation, WWF urges corporates to collaborate with each other, NGOs, conservation groups and policymakers rather than working alone. Such partnerships can help ensure strong environmental and social standards, prevent unintended consequences and bring about broader change, the report concludes.

Bio-based plastics, which account for up to 11.3% of the analysed corporates’ packaging portfolios, also receive detailed analysis and recommendations. WWF warns members against shifting to bioplastics without prioritising and investing in recycled stocks, and against sourcing bioplastics in a way which is not one-planet compatible. For example, some bioplastics require huge amounts of land and water to produce, or are not easily recyclable or degradable, undoing, on balance, any benefits of displacing virgin fossil-based materials.