The world is plagued by plastic pollution. Approximately 400m tonnes of plastic waste are produced worldwide every year, and it takes up to 500 years for it to be fully decomposed, according to the UN Environmental Programme
. The plastics industry is turning to innovative technologies to alleviate waste and move towards more circular models, such as biobased packaging and chemical recycling. However, a recent study
shows that plastic recycling can pose chemical and health risks – the plastic problem certainly is a tough nut to crack.
We are acutely aware of the issue more than ever before. This year’s World Environment Day
focused on solutions to plastic pollution. There is incoming and evolving regulation such as the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation; and, the Global Plastics Treaty to lead advancements on tackling plastic waste is now drafted.
At this year’s future of plastics and packaging conference
in Amsterdam (3rd-4th October), leading stakeholders within the plastics industry will gather to discuss what the incoming regulation and legislation will mean for business and evaluate recent innovations within the industry. Registrations are still open – click here to join us.
Ahead of the event, the Innovation Forum team has been working to highlight the main areas of innovation within the industry and speak to leading businesses and experts on these important topics.
Global Plastics Treaty – exciting potential
In March 2022, UN member states agreed to develop a legally binding agreement to tackle plastic pollution. The agreement should address the entire lifecycle of plastics, including its production, design and disposal. The International Negotiating Committee (INC) have been convening to develop the Global Plastics Treaty, with its third session scheduled for mid-November and aim to be completed by 2024. A draft treaty was published in September 2023.
Ahead of the first session (INC-1) in 2022, Innovation Forum’s Bea Stevenson spoke with Chris Dixon, ocean campaign leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency, about the priorities for the United Nations global pact on plastic pollution, such as transparent plastic production reporting, agreement on definitions and financing.
Meanwhile, the UN high seas treaty was adopted in June 2023 to protect ocean and tackle climate changed-induced environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Plastic waste makes up 85% of marine litter and harms coastal ecosystems. This treaty contains provisions following the polluter-pays principle to strengthen marine ecosystem resilience. Andreas Hansen, senior policy advisor of ocean and conservation finance at The Nature Conservancy talked in detail with Bea Stevenson about what the new framework entails and the potential business impacts for seafood supply chains.
Developing sustainable packaging for good
Recently, there have been initiatives to reduce plastic packaging for business and consumers. Retailers such as Waitrose, Aldi and Co-op have been quick to trial reuse and refill schemes with refill stations and the use of glass bottles, for example. But how effective have these trials been?
Bea Stevenson has researched the potential of these retail reuse and refill schemes and how they could improve to encourage customers to utilise and, ultimately, benefit from these initiatives. You can read the full article here.
The food sector is clearly a significant user of plastics in many forms – from food protection and packaging, to bottles and carrier bags. At Innovation Forum’s recent future of food conference in Amsterdam, major food and beverage brands shared some insights on the latest advancements within the sector and potential solutions to the constant use of plastic packaging.
Recycling and reuse technologies
A recent study
shows consumers are becoming accustomed to seeing plastic recycled products on grocery shelves and are warming to choosing recycled products over their non-recycled counterparts.
Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh recently spoke with Katherine Hoffmann from Eastman and Stanley Black & Decker’s Ed Higgins about their collaboration in developing a sustainable power tools line. The products are used from recycled plastics, including its packaging. They share their products as a case study in which sustainable applications can be implemented without sacrificing performance.
Big debate: the future for chemical recycling
Chemical recycling has been touted as a solution at scale for plastic pollution. But there are also concerns over its impacts and the safety of resulting materials and by-products of the potentially chemical-intensive chemical recycling processes. In the midst of the ongoing waste crisis, Innovation Forum led a webinar on the feasibility, benefits and ultimately the future of chemical recycling.
Nick Cliffe from UKRI, Chris Dixon from the Environmental Investigation Agency, Eastman’s Inari Seppa, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Charles van Reij and moderator Ian Welsh discussed the methodologies behind chemical recycling and how brands are approaching chemical recycling in their plastic-reduction strategies.