US Plastics Pact Roadmap 2.0: Perspectives and Criticisms

The U.S. Plastics Pact, part of the global network of national and regional pacts coordinated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, aims to unite stakeholders in efforts to enhance plastic reuse and recycling. Member companies, known as “activators,” pledged to achieve specific targets by 2025 and provide annual progress reports.

With the 2025 deadline close at hand, the U.S. Plastics Pact has now published an updated set of objectives dubbed as the Pact’s Roadmap 2.0, which extends the original targets from 2025 to 2030. The renewed targets address ongoing issues related to plastic waste by emphasizing practical steps companies can take to redesign, reuse, and recycle plastics more effectively.

Criticisms and Concerns

Delayed Timelines: Critics argue that the extension of targets from 2025 to 2030 reflects a lack of urgency. Environmental activists and publications highlight that pushing the deadlines back gives companies more time without necessarily driving immediate action. They suggest that this delay may undermine the original impetus for rapid change in the plastics industry.

Same Targets, Different Deadlines: There is a sentiment that Roadmap 2.0 simply postpones the same ambitious targets set for 2025 without introducing new or more stringent goals. This delay might be perceived as a way to avoid accountability for the initial targets that were not met​​.

Lack of Specificity and Quantifiable Goals: The new goals, such as developing reusable packaging, are seen as vague because they lack specific numerical targets. This vagueness can be interpreted as a lack of commitment to measurable progress​​.

Concerns from Industry Experts: The American Chemistry Council has expressed concerns that the roadmap does not adequately recognize the role of advanced recycling technologies. They argue that advanced recycling can help achieve higher recycling rates and produce high-quality recycled plastics for food, medical, and pharmaceutical applications​​.

Activists’ Scepticism: Environmental activists view the roadmap as insufficiently ambitious and too lenient on corporations. They argue that without strict enforcement and clear penalties for non-compliance, companies might not feel pressured to make significant changes. ​

Points in Favor

Evolution and Learning: From the perspective of the Pact and its members, Roadmap 2.0 is seen as an evolution that builds on lessons learned from the initial plan. The extension is framed as necessary to achieve the ambitious goals more realistically

Focus on Practical Steps: The Pact emphasizes that the new roadmap includes practical, achievable steps for companies to contribute to a circular economy. This includes innovations in packaging design and the development of necessary infrastructure​.

Collaboration and Broader Impact: The roadmap underscores the importance of collaboration among businesses, government agencies, NGOs, and research institutions. It also aims to address the broader social and community impacts of plastic production and use​.

Accomplishments and Progress So Far

Reduction of Problematic Plastics:

  • Decreased the use of problematic or unnecessary plastics from 14% to 8%.

Increased Recyclability:

  • Increased the amount of reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging from 37% to 47.7%.

Recycled Content:

  • Increased post-consumer recycled or responsibly sourced bio-based content in packaging from 7% to 9.4%.

Community Growth:

  • Expanded the U.S. Pact from 62 to over 130 dedicated activators.

Resource Development:

  • Introduced tools like the PCR Procurement Toolkit, PCR Certification Principles, and the Design for Circularity Playbooks​.

A Comparison of Old 2025 Targets vs. New 2030 Targets:

2025 Targets

Eliminate Problematic or Unnecessary Plastic Packaging:

  • Identify and eliminate problematic plastics.

100% Reusable, Recyclable, or Compostable Packaging:

  • Ensure all plastic packaging meets these criteria by 2025.

50% Recycling or Composting Rate:

  • Achieve effective recycling or composting for 50% of plastic packaging.

30% Recycled Content:

  • Use an average of 30% recycled content in plastic packaging​.

2030 Targets

Reduction of Virgin Plastic:

  • Aim to reduce the use of virgin plastic by 30% by 2030.

Elimination of Problematic Plastics:

  • Expand the list of problematic plastics and eliminate them completely by 2030.

50% Recycling Rate:

  • Continue the goal to effectively recycle 50% of plastic packaging.

30% Post-Consumer Recycled Content:

  • Maintain the target of incorporating an average of 30% post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging.

Reuse Innovations:

  • Make reuse a core target to significantly reduce single-use plastics.

Design for Circularity:

  • Ensure all plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Health and Community Impact:

  • Address the social impacts and disparities related to plastic production and use​

While Roadmap 2.0 aims to drive continued progress towards a circular economy for plastics, it faces criticism for perceived delays and lack of specificity. The Pact emphasizes evolution and practical steps, whereas critics call for more urgency and accountability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *