By 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish. That was a prediction by a study conducted by the World Economic Forum in January 2016, which looked at the amount of plastic being produced and suggested that, in the next 30 years, the world will be producing more than three times the amount than in 2014. Following the report, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II thrust the subject back into the national consciousness and, since then, plastic consumption, production and pollution has been much discussed. Today, many leading brands have committed to action, thanks to a new agreement devised by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in partnership with UN Environment. Brands such as Burberry, H&M, Selfridges, Inditex (the parent company of Zara), Stella McCartney and L’Oréal have all signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which aims to "eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source".
There are three definitive targets within the Commitment, the first being to eliminate any superfluous plastic packaging and avoid single-use plastics altogether. The second is to make all plastics recyclable, compostable or, at the very least, reusable by 2025, while the third target deals with keeping any existing plastics in use for longer before they’re thrown away, either by reusing them or recycling them into new products. The targets will be reviewed every 18 months.
The signatories include brands responsible for 20% of all plastic packaging produced around the world, suggesting that this Commitment has the potential to enact real change
The Commitment has also been signed by the British and Chilean governments. In a press release, Ellen MacArthur said: "We know that cleaning up plastics from our beaches and oceans is vital, but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment draws a line in the sand, with businesses, governments and others around the world uniting behind a clear vision for what we need to create a circular economy for plastic."
As well as committing to the targets outlined in the agreement, the brands who have signed up will be required to publish their progress annually. Currently, the signatories include brands responsible for 20% of all plastic packaging produced around the world, suggesting that this Commitment has the potential to enact real change. Given that the World Wide Fund for Nature has just declared a state of emergency for the natural world, this is welcome news indeed. According to a report published by the WWF, global vertebrate populations have decreased by 60% since 1970, largely due to human activity destroying the natural habitats of these species. The organisation has stressed that only a global pact on the scale of the Paris Agreement on climate change (from which President Trump withdrew, earlier this year) will help save the world from irreversible collapse.
While it’s massively encouraging that influential brands have signed the new Commitment, more need to follow suit. The planet is in crisis and we all need to take responsibility in whichever way we can.