Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Scale Up Reusable Packaging
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The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has called for a ‘reuse revolution’ that shifts the focus from recycling plastic packaging to greater levels of reusable and returnable packaging. The Foundation, which works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, has issued a new report calling for the reuse of packaging materials to be urgently upscaled.

The report claims that a reuse revolution is critical to tackling the plastic waste and pollution crisis, and offers insights and recommendations into ways in which the use of returnable packaging can be increased.

Sander Defruyt, Plastics Initiative Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “It’s time for a reuse revolution. Embracing this gives us the opportunity to tackle plastic pollution, ease pressure on our natural resources, and make strides towards net zero.”

“Scaling reuse will be a major transition and won’t happen overnight. This analytical study gives us greater insight into the key drivers that affect the environmental and economic performance of return systems.”

“Yet, it doesn’t have all the answers. We now need to see more research and groundwork in specific geographies and sectors to determine the best course of action and make return models at scale a reality.”

“No single organisation can drive the necessary change by itself; it will require a collaborative effort from businesses, policymakers and financial institutions. Together they can kick start the reuse revolution and get the world on track to tackling the plastic crisis.”

The Foundation has worked with consultancies, government agencies, brands and retailers. Some of the 60 businesses and organisations that were involved in the consultation process include Coca-Cola Danone, PepsiCo, Unilever, and the European Investment Bank.

The report makes three key recommendations. The first is to share infrastructure to make reuse simpler and more streamlined, and to reduce confusion among customers about how, where and when to return items of packaging. Secondly, it calls for more standardisation of packaging to make the sorting, cleaning and storing process more efficient.

Thirdly, it calls for companies to offer incentives to customers to return packaging to increase the rate of return.

Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President at the European Investment Bank, said: “This valuable study issues a blueprint for achieving the crucial step-change from recycling to reuse in a global economy. Shifting towards reuse systems can increase circularity at scale, whilst at the same time creating new business options and social benefits.”

Jolanda de Rooij, Senior Sustainability Manager Circular Economy at Unilever, added: “We’re pleased to be working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and other industry partners to explore the economic, environmental, and experiential impacts of reuse models versus single-use.”

The report claims that without more effort to reuse packaging materials from products such as personal care items, food cupboard, beverages and fresh food items, worldwide use of new plastics is unlikely to decrease before 2050.

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