Scientist supports Global Commitment to eliminate plastic pollution at the source

A world-renowned marine litter expert from the University of Plymouth has lent his support to a global initiative aimed at eradicating plastics waste and pollution at source.

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with UN Environment, and was officially unveiled at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali.

More than 250 organisations have already signed up, including many of the world’s largest packaging producers, brands, retailers and recyclers, as well as governments and NGOs.

The scheme has also been backed by Professor Richard Thompson, Head of the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit and Director of the Marine Institute. He said:

“Plastics undoubtedly have their uses, but we have developed a throwaway culture where single use items have become part of our way of life. The transition to more circular use of plastics is essential to help reduce the accumulation of end of life plastic as waste and litter. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment represents a major step forward in this journey and I am pleased to endorse it.”

The Global Commitment aims to create ‘a new normal’ for plastic packaging. Targets will be reviewed every 18 months, and become increasingly ambitious over the coming years. Businesses that sign the commitment will publish annual data on their progress to help drive momentum and ensure transparency. Its initial targets include:

  • eliminating problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models
  • innovating to ensure 100 per cent of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025
  • circulating the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused, recycled and made into new packaging or products.

Credit: Brian Ledgard

Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said:

“We know that cleaning up plastics from our beaches and oceans is vital, but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment draws a line in the sand, with businesses, governments and others around the world uniting behind a clear vision for what we need to create a circular economy for plastic. This is just one step on what will be a challenging journey, but one which can lead to huge benefits for society, the economy and the environment. I encourage all businesses and governments to go further and embark on a race to the top in the creation of a circular economy for plastic. One in which this material never becomes waste or pollution.”

Credit: Stephan Röhl

Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International, said:

“The plastics crisis can only be solved with the combined efforts of all key players in the system. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s strategy in plastics is to advocate, amplify and accelerate a connected suite of initiatives for change; therefore we are working closely with other key organizations, such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to convey a joint message on our ambitious joint commitments, and to develop the tools needed to achieve these in partnership with companies, civil society, governments and citizens. WWF therefore endorses the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment as we consider it an important step forward to join the efforts of businesses and governments around the world towards system-wide solutions.”

UN Environment, which leads the Global Partnership on Marine Litter and its Clean Seas Campaign, last month also launched the Global Plastics Platform to support international efforts to tackle plastic pollution. It said it would use its convening power to drive engagement with the Global Commitment from governments and other key players. Governments that sign, pledge to put in place policies and enabling conditions to support the Global Commitment’s targets and vision.

Executive Director Erik Solheim said:

“Ocean plastic is one of the most visible and disturbing examples of a plastic pollution crisis. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution. It sets out the steps businesses and governments must take if we are to find a solution to the root causes of plastic pollution and we urge all those working towards dealing with this global issue to sign it.”

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.

Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions

Find out more about the International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine Institute

Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 

We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

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