A consortium of more than 60 companies, plastics trade groups, and governments in the US have launched a target to achieve a 50 percent rate for packaging recycling and composting. The pact would also increase recycled content. The pact joins seven other agreements made globally to express the growing desire to improve recycling rates, though many see the pacts as lacking actionable steps and as more of a symbolic step toward reducing waste.

Pact organizers will spend a few months creating a roadmap that will reduce virgin plastics use in packaging by 2025. The list of signatories includes Coca Cola, Walmart, plastics producer Amcor Ltd., and industry groups such as the Association of Plastic Recyclers. Some environmental groups have also joined the agreement. The pact will include the following targets:

• Fifty percent of plastic packaging either effectively recycled or composted
• Thirty percent recycled content or responsibly sourced biobased content in plastic packaging
• All plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable
• Development of a list of problematic plastic packaging to be eliminated by 2025

The agreement includes The Recycling Partnership, which is a national organization dedicated to improving recycling. According to the group, the participants in the pact believe that incremental change isn’t really enough. In a press release from the organization, it says, “The U.S. Plastics Pact is an ambitious initiative to unify diverse public-private stakeholders across the plastics value chain to rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics, to create a path toward a circular economy for plastic in the United States.”

The pact is being administered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), which is also administering the other global plastics pacts elsewhere in the world. The foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by bringing together decision-makers in business, government, and academia. The World Wildlife Fund will be reporting the pact’s progress through a website. EMF worked with many large global companies to secure commitments to sustainability through EMF’s New Plastics Economy project and the pact is an extension of those commitments into a larger collaborative effort.

The U.S. Plastics Pact aims to take the recycling rate in the US from less than 15 percent to nearly 50 percent, which would be a rather large jump considering the pact is strictly voluntary with no accountability measure built in. While the pact takes shape in the US, the UK’s pact to increase recycling to 70 percent is being looked to for guidance as that pact had many of the same goals as the US pact. For more information on the pact and its progress, visit www.newplasticseconomy.org.