Plastics have been key enablers to improving living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world, especially in developing countries. Economic growth and growing prosperity have brought many of the conveniences of modern life. As a result, used plastics have become a global environmental challenge.
The solution lies in building a circular economy for plastics, where plastic waste is viewed as a valuable economic resource and is recycled and reused. Innovation is key and is needed in many areas including designing new products and materials, improving collection and recycling infrastructure and building new economic models.
One of the biggest barriers to a circular economy for plastics, however, are the poorly functioning markets for recycled plastics. Many of the raw feedstocks for most plastics are currently cheaper to use than recycled materials. As such, the economics of plastic recycling are weak. While we see many companies making bold new commitments and goals for recyclability, few are thinking about their role in creating demand – that is, stimulating end markets for recycled material.
Governments, manufacturers, financiers and innovators all have a role to play. Please lend your expertise as part of a discussion around the importance of building markets to ensure a successful transition to a circular economy for plastics.