Plastics pollution being tackled

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

If you’ve got an interest in the packaging business, be that as a manufacturer or converter, you need to know about the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new coalition. Launched in 2010, the Ellen MacArther Foundation works with governments, industry and academia to develop an economic framework that is designed so that waste is not wasted, but instead is used as raw material for something else or gets reused. Such circular economies minimise emissions by closing as much as possible energy and material loops.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has a variety of partnered programmes in place to drive changes necessary to achieve circular economies. The new coalition was set up earlier this year. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it already includes businesses and governments across the globe working together to deal with plastic pollution. Fourteen international organisations have joined the coalition including Unilever, CocaCola, Pepsico, Walmart, L’Oréal and Nestlé. The fourteen companies are committed to using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025. A name for the group is expected to be announced later this year.

The coalition has signed up to various commitments and several key principles. These include the elimination of unnecessary plastic packaging; the reuse, recycling or practical composting of all plastic packaging, ensuring that plastic packaging doesn’t include “substances of concern” and that the amount of recycled content is maximised.

The sheer heft of this coalition’s supporters suggests that their collective actions could impact all parts of the graphics industry supply chain for packaging production. Paper makers have an opportunity to further develop plastics based on cellulose; ink makers will need formulas that work on new materials being designed to replace existing petrochemical based plastics; printhead manufacturers will need to make sure their heads work with new ink formulas and materials; and digital press manufacturers will need to ensure that their presses produce prints on the new substrates that are fit for purpose and comply with safety and environmental regulations.

This initiative involves a lot of companies, brands and products that are the lifeblood of packaging printers, so it’s worth learning more about it. Unilever has already stated that by 2025 at least 25% of its packaging will be from recycled plastic and that it is working on a plastics protocol for the industry to develop a technical solution for multi-layered sachet recycling. CocaCola is working on a plan to help collect and recycle all packaging associated with its products by 2030. It wants all of its consumer packaging to be 100% recyclable by 2030 and for 50% of its packaging to have recycled content by 2030. Nestlé aims for 100% by 2025 and is getting rid of nonrecylable plastics altogether, along with complicated blends of packaging materials. The company is also working on deposit return schemes and supporting what it calls “professionalising informal collection systems”. Further information is available on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website:

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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