Plastic waste has been found everywhere, from city streets to the depths of the Mariana Trench, where it harms economies, ecosystems, and human health. While the crisis feels ubiquitous, there has been strong momentum recently to find solutions, from city initiatives to negotiations for a Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution. The Global Plastics Treaty, in particular, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for businesses, governments, and communities to create a world free of plastic pollution.
As the world continues to grapple with the best approach to end plastic pollution, one thing has become abundantly clear over the last year: action is required at all economic levels (including individuals, companies, and governments) if we wish to see real change this century. The first step in addressing plastic pollution is understanding the scope of the problem and emphasizing that plastic reporting is not only possible, but critical to change. The corporate Members of WWF’s ReSource: Plastic initiative are demonstrating this possibility through continued efforts to transparently report their plastic footprints and progress against plastic waste goals. This work is showcased in the just released annual report, Transparent 2023, which details and tracks the latest year-over-year progress of ReSource Member companies’ efforts to reduce plastic waste.
With the global treaty, we have seen governments come together to envision a world free of plastic pollution. However, it is imperative that businesses be at the forefront of the solution as they will need to redesign how we source, use, and dispose of plastics. ReSource Members Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive, CVS Health, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, and The Coca-Cola Company have committed to publicly sharing their annual plastic waste footprint and how they are tackling the opportunities to move towards a more circular economy. The insights outlined in Transparent 2023 are helpful to business leaders as corporate reporting on these issues becomes more widespread and companies redesign portfolios and business models to address the changing plastics landscape and anticipated future regulations.
The major takeaways from the report include:
- The first and most critical step for companies to address plastic waste is understanding the scope of their plastic footprint.
After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. As global and domestic policy in the U.S. moves towards addressing the plastic waste crisis, Transparent 2023 shows that plastic reporting is possible and the companies that have invested resources in understanding their plastic footprint will be ahead of the regulatory curve. Through voluntary reporting, ReSource members are gaining valuable insight into how to effectively track and address plastic waste. ReSource members can serve as a model for others wanting to understand how to measure their footprint.
- Reuse systems are emerging as a key strategy to manage plastic footprints, with all nine ReSource Members exploring reuse in some capacity.
Evaluating the success of reuse is challenging as there is currently no consensus for how to measure, account for, or report on reusable packaging. More data and clear guidance on reuse measurement approaches and metrics are necessary to ensure that reuse is implemented effectively within corporations.
- Voluntary corporate action is important and can drive progress in some areas. However, regulation is necessary to address the scale and urgency of the plastic pollution crisis.
We need policy action – including national Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) frameworks and a strong legally binding Global Plastics Treaty – to drive the broader systems change and enable the conditions for voluntary initiatives to be successful.