World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

filtered by category: Plastics

  • Date: 15 July 2021

Plastic pollution is rapidly becoming one of the most devastating issues facing our planet – yet despite this growing crisis, plastic plays a vital role in our society. From keeping our food fresh to supporting life-saving medical devices, plastic is deeply imbedded in many of our essential services. Getting rid of it is not an option, nor should it be the goal.

Even in a circular economy that maximizes the reuse, recovery, and recycling of all plastic, some virgin plastic will still be necessary because no material is capable of infinite recycling without losses to quality and quantity. Many industries will continue to require virgin plastic to maintain health and safety standards.

To truly curb the plastic pollution crisis, we must therefore adopt a multifaceted approach – one in which we not only push for the transition to a circular system, but also utilize renewable and responsibly sourced feedstocks to replenish essential lost material. While currently 99% of new plastics are made from harmful fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, an emerging plant-based plastic market could provide a more sustainable alternative. Plant-based plastics – made from seaweed, sugar beet and other plants – can serve a strong complementary role to a circular economy while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

However, to yield true positive impacts, plant-based materials must be responsibly sourced and managed. That’s why World Wildlife Fund initiated the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) in 2013, convening some of the world’s leading consumer brands to advance our knowledge of plant-based plastics and to explore the potential environmental and social impacts of these materials. With much still unknown, one thing is clear: the solution must not exacerbate the problem.

The BFA is therefore calling on policy makers to ensure any future policy on plastic alternatives is grounded in science. In the race to realize a circular economy, plant-based plastics will be key – however policies should require sustainability metrics be used to evaluate their production and sourcing, looking at environmental indicators such as water use, carbon emissions, and impacts on communities and wildlife. Not only will this approach guarantee plant-based plastics remain responsibly managed, but it will incentivize continuous improvement that ultimately leads to the lowest environmental impact.

Achieving a circular plastic system will require bold and innovative solutions – yet choosing the right solutions will involve navigating complex tradeoffs. New policies in the plant-based plastics space must be based on credible sustainability science to maximize positive environmental impacts. Only then can we transition to a more circular plastic system, one that benefits both people and the planet.

You can read the BFA’s full Call for Science-Based Policy on Plastic Alternatives here.

The Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance provides thought leadership on the responsible sourcing of bioplastics, and the role of bioplastic in circular systems. The BFA explores the latest science to advance knowledge of bioplastics and their social and environmental impacts. The BFA aims to ensure bioplastics ultimately contribute to a more sustainable flow of materials, to create lasting value for present and future generations. Visit https://bioplasticfeedstockalliance.org/ for more information.

  • Date: 28 December 2020
  • Author: Anthony Tusino, Program Officer, Policy & Government Affairs

Over the past year, it is estimated that 10 million metric tons of plastic waste have entered the world’s oceans. Our traditional linear economy—where we use, consume and throw away plastics at an alarming rate—has created a world where plastic is found in almost every habitat; from neighborhoods to forests to waterways, and even the deepest point in the ocean. The time to end plastic pollution is now. We have made encouraging progress over the past year, with more than 750,000 activists calling on governments around the world to solve the plastic crisis. WWF is proud to share the progress we have made in 2020 and look forward to a future free of plastic waste.

Advancing National Policy

In 2020, the call to curb plastic pollution was heard on Capitol Hill. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act builds on the success of existing legislation to better understand the impact of plastic on our environment, to establish U.S. leadership in combating waste leakage and development of materials recycling, and to combat marine debris by investing in new technology. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act will set the stage for new national action to combat marine debris and advance effective waste management.

The introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Act has advanced national conversations around our domestic reliance on virgin plastic. We cannot fix our linear economy by focusing only on the management of plastic waste. We must reevaluate the ways in which we use and rely on plastic. Extended Producer Responsibility mechanisms, like those in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, have the potential to reduce consumers’ reliance on virgin materials while simultaneously allowing for new investment in our recycling systems and ensuring that plastic producers are responsible for the waste they create. WWF supports a domestic Extended Producer Responsibility system where consumers, corporations and governments can work toward a truly circular economy. In 2021, we are looking forward to advancing this national movement.

Understanding Impact

Reflecting on the past year, WWF has made incredible progress in understanding the impact of plastic on our natural world and how we can work with partners in the private sector to advance our vision for a circular economy. In June, we released Transparent 2020, the first report of our ReSource: Plastic Footprint Tracker pilot effort. We tracked the footprint of five major companies and found they accounted for 4.2 million metric tons of plastic waste, 70% of which is either landfilled or mismanaged. By understanding the footprint of large corporations, we can better understand and provide recommendations for what interventions need to be taken to reduce those footprints, including suggestions for redesign of packaging to eliminate unnecessary plastic, or by shifting to sustainable inputs.

Recognizing the impact that our commercial fishing practices have on the health of our oceans, we released the comprehensive report “Stop Ghost Gear: The most deadly form of plastic debris” in October. The report spotlights the problem of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ghost gear), which makes up 10% of the ocean’s plastic waste and impacts 66% of marine mammals, 50% of seabirds, and every species of sea turtle. We laid out a series of actions that governments, fishing gear producers and designers, fishers, and the general public can take to tackle it.

Building Coalitions

We have also worked to transform international conversations around plastic waste and waste management practices. A United Nations Treaty on plastic pollution has been endorsed by almost 2 million global activists and more than two-thirds of UN member states. With the release of “The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution” in October, we found that plastic pollution causes $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems every year. Together, 31 large corporations have supported the call for an international treaty.

We also launched the U.S. Plastics Pact alongside our partners at The Recycling Partnership and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The Pact focuses on four main goals to remove problematic packaging from our system and work toward an economy that prioritizes the use of recycled content. With more than 80 members spanning industry groups, corporations, state and municipal agencies, national environmental organizations and members of academia, the Pact will release a roadmap to circularity in early 2021, with national footprint tracking and policy recommendations to follow.

In 2020, we have made great progress in understanding the impact that plastic waste has on our communities and our natural world, even amid a pandemic. We have also built on enormous ambition across our members, our private sector partners and national and international policymakers. 2020 was a momentous year for combating plastic waste and 2021 will build on this success to end plastic pollution.

  • Date: 14 July 2020

Business is a critical lever for driving the shifts we need to fix the broken plastic system. WWF’s Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) addresses a key piece of this puzzle, the shift towards the responsible sourcing of plant-based plastics, known as bioplastics. To match the scope and scale of this complex task, BFA is structured as a multi-stakeholder forum for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and science-based thought leadership to advance our understanding of bioplastic in a circular economy.

Today, BFA welcomes Kimberly-Clark as the newest member of this ambitious consortium.

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  • Date: 14 May 2019
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement

Last summer in an op-ed in the Seattle Times, I called for a plastics revolution. As a society, we were on the brink of rethinking how to tackle our plastic waste crisis, but there wasn’t a clear path on how to get there.  Since then, city governments, companies – both big and small – and other stakeholders have made public commitments, from bans on plastic straws and bags to large-scale pledges to reduce, re-source, recycle, and more.

While ambitious commitments are the jumping off point for any successful venture, we know that no single individual, organization, company, or government can tackle the root causes of plastic waste on their own. When it comes to the private sector, commitments move companies in the right direction, but to actually fulfill those commitments, companies need a roadmap for navigating the broken plastics system, a collaborative environment that fosters innovation and aggressive goal-setting, and the right tools to make their bold visions a reality.

That’s why World Wildlife Fund launched ReSource: Plastic, an activation hub designed to close the “how” gap for companies that are ready to move from aspiration to meaningful and measurable action. We’re inspired by the efforts of our Principal Members, including Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Tetra Pak and The Coca-Cola Company, and the work of our Thought Partners Ellen MacArthur Foundation and ocean Conservancy. When leading companies and NGOs unite around comprehensive solutions to the plastics problem – by reducing their own plastic pollution footprint, shifting to bio-sourced and recycled materials, influencing public policy, and shaping consumer behavior – real change happens.

When we first started to think how WWF could help stop the flow of plastic waste into our oceans and other critical ecosystems, we examined our decades-long work with influential corporate partners. We quickly recognized the critical role that private sector collaboration could play in achieving our mission of No Plastic in Nature by 2030. In designing ReSource, we took a three-pronged approach to working with companies:

  • Prioritize strategies that will yield the greatest impact.
  • Implement those strategies and utilize an innovative methodology to measure progress.
  • Collaborate with other companies and key stakeholders to drive new solutions and investments.

We also knew we couldn’t do this alone. Our Thought Partners, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy, are already at the forefront of engaging businesses on this issue. Under our leadership, and with their strategic input and guidance, ReSource will be strongly rooted in science and focus exclusively on keeping plastic in the supply loop and out of the environment.

A year into the plastics revolution, I’m thrilled with how far we’ve come, but there’s more work to do. We challenge you to go beyond your commitments and join us. Together, we can show what a future with no plastic in nature actually looks like—a world where oceans, wildlife, communities, and businesses thrive.

Learn more at www.resource-plastic.com.

 

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