Creating a Circular Economy for Plastics

NICOLA LEDSHAM | November 12, 2018

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A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. This means materials constantly flow around a ‘closed loop’ system, rather than being used once and then discarded. In the case of plastic, this means simultaneously keeping the value of plastics in the economy, without leakage into the natural environment. But this is easier said than done. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported that more than 40 years after the launch of the first universal recycling symbol, just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally is recycled, while 40% ends up in landfill and 32% in ecosystems (with the remaining 14% used for incineration or energy recovery). To move society away from the “take, make, dispose” mindset that has long-informed business models, a fundamental rethink is required. This will involve improving recycling, promoting reuse, creating a market for recycled materials and redesigning products with end of life in mind.

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