Signatories to pledge to integrate the circular economy as part of their post-Covid-19 recovery include the CEOs of Amcor, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and DS Smith

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Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 850 organisations had committed to developing a circular economy for plastics (Credit: Pixabay)

More than 50 business and political leaders have pledged to use circular economy principles as part of their post-Covid-19 recovery plans.

Signatories of the pledge -— put together by non-governmental organisation (NGO) the Ellen MacArthur Foundation — include the CEOs of Amcor, Coca-Cola, DS Smith, and Nestle, as well as the Netherlands’ minister for the environment.

The circular economy is a system where products — such as plastic bottles or food packaging — are designed to be recycled.

More than 850 organisations have already united behind the NGO’s commitment to developing a circular economy for plastics, setting a 2025 target to achieve this.

Founder Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “CEOs of some of the world’s biggest companies, policymakers, philanthropists, academics and other influential individuals have reaffirmed their commitment to building a circular economy.

“Together we can build an economy that is distributed, diverse, and inclusive.”


How do businesses and governments pledge to use the circular economy post-Covid-19

Signatories to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s post-Covid-19 pledge have committed to eliminate non-essential plastics by looking towards new business models and materials.

They have also agreed to circulate all the plastics they do use — keeping them in the economy and out of the environment.

In a statement on its website, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincy — a signatory of the pledge — says he believes businesses will emerge out of the global Covid-19 pandemic into a “new reality” that requires changes to the way work is done.

Coca-Cola’s statement adds that the circular economy creates “vital opportunities for economic growth, innovation, and job creation” that also addresses challenges such as climate change and pollution.

As part of its work to tackle plastic waste, the beverage giant aims to make its global packaging 100% recyclable by 2025, and to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every unit sold by 2030.

Those in the fashion industry have also pledged to ensure all their clothes can be used for longer post-Covid-19, alongside making garments that can be recycled.

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H&M Group aims to make all of its garments fully circular (Credit: Macro Verch/ Flikr)

Commenting on the joint commitment, H&M Group CEO Helena Helmersson said: “We must take the responsibility of our future together.

“Companies and governments have to collaborate, be transparent and show leadership in their transition to a circular economy.

“Taking steps back in what already has been achieved is not an option.

“We are committed to take our part, and to follow our vision of becoming circular and climate positive.”

As part of its pledge, H&M Group aims to make products that are fully circular — offering customers garment collecting options to give a second life to used garments.

The company is also aiming to use more recycled fibres for its products, such as recycled polyester from plastic bottles or recycled cotton from used garments.

Signatories from the food industry have committed to redesigning their products by developing a supply chain to regenerate nature.

They also aim to eliminate the concept of food waste and connect to local production and consumption where appropriate.

The financial sector has pledged to support the transition by mobilising capital to circular solutions.


How the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is tackling the plastic waste problem through its Global Commitment

Since being founded in 2010, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been committed to building up the circular economy across a range of industries.

In 2016, the NGO set up the New Plastics Economy, an initiative to build momentum towards a global plastic system.

Two years later, the New Plastics Economy launched its flagship project — the Global Commitment.

This united businesses, governments, and other organisations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste at its sources.

Developed in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme, all of the companies signed up have pledged to make 100% of their plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

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The Ellen MacArthur Foundation set up its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment in 2018 (Credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastics Economy)

Of the more than 400 member-organisations of the Global Commitment, some represent about 20% of all the plastic packaging produced globally

In its first annual report, published in October 2019, it found that on average around 60% of business signatories’ plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Alongside this, government signatories — including France, Rwanda, and the UK, as well as the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo and the US’ Austin — are applying policies to tackle plastic waste.

These include bans, public procurement, extended producer responsibility schemes, fiscal measures, and incentives for research and development.

Speaking at the time, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy lead Sander Defruyt said: “Around the world, people are calling for businesses and governments to take action to stop plastic pollution.

“Leading businesses and governments stepped forward by signing the Global Commitment and we can now see promising early progress.

“This includes major commitments to reduce the use of virgin plastic, the introduction of reuse pilot projects, and unprecedented demand for recycled plastic in packaging.

“But there is a long way to go and it is crucial those efforts are accelerated and scaled, and more businesses and governments take action to eliminate plastic pollution at the source.”