The three strategies for the new plastic economy, the three Re’s. Rob Opsomer

Image: REUTERS/Stringer

In just over half a century, plastics have become pervasive throughout the economy due to their versatility and cost-effectiveness, growing their production volumes twenty-fold. Yet alongside clear benefits, today’s plastics system has significant drawbacks. A report released last year, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics by the World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Co., found that today only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally; the rest of it is either incinerated, landfilled or ends up as litter, often in the ocean. If current trends continue, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastics than fish, by weight. Now, just one year after publication of this research, more than 40 business and government leaders have endorsed an action plan that could increase reuse and recycling rates for plastic packaging to 70%.

A new report, released this week at Davos, presents three strategies and a set of actions needed by industry to move towards a new plastics economy. These are: re-use, recycle and re-design and innovate.