The U.S. Plastics Pact is a consortium formed by The Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) global program. In its recently published list of problematic and unnecessary materials, the Pact has now listed 11 products and materials to be phased out by the end of 2025. Once again, the cumulative pressure from NGOs and the big players in retail and branded goods is evident. The packaging value chain doesn’t get a break….
The U.S. Plastics Pact’s “Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List” lists eleven materials and products that are “not currently widely reusable, recyclable, or compostable” in the United States and “not expected to be kept in a closed loop in practice and on a large scale by 2025.”
Objective of the “blacklist”
The elimination of listed Problematic and Unnecessary materials is intended to enable advances in the design of recycled packaging, increase opportunities for recovery, and improve the quality of recycled content available to manufacturers.
On the one hand, the Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List does not represent a ban on the products and materials listed. On the other hand, U.S. Plastics Pact members produce about one-third of the relevant plastic packaging in the United States.
What goes on the list
The “Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List” refers exclusively to plastic packaging. Medical plastics, such as those used in clinics, hospitals and related laboratory and research facilities, are not part of the list. Branded products and materials to be eliminated by 2025 include:
- Intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are either present in the packaging or used in the manufacture of the packaging,
- undetectable pigments such as carbon black,
- opaque or pigmented PET bottles, which includes any color except transparent blue or green,
- oxo-degradable additives including oxo-biodegradable additives,
- PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) in rigid packaging,
- PS (polystyrene) including EPS (expanded polystyrene),
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride) including PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride), and
- problematic label constructions including adhesives, inks and materials such as PETG, PVC, PLA and paper. Formats, materials and features that make packaging harmful or non-recyclable according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) Design Guide should be avoided. Labels should meet the “APR Preferred Guidance” for coverage and compatibility. In all areas where compliance with this requirement is unclear, labels should be tested for this.
Background: EMF’s Plastics Pact Network.
The U.S. Plastics Pact was established in 2020 by The Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund as part of EMF’s global “Plastics Pact Network.” The “blacklist,” published via press release on Jan. 25, was announced by the U.S. Plastics Pact last June as part of its “Roadmap to 2025.”
The action is based on a global framework developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact Network links national and regional initiatives around the world to implement solutions for a circular economy for plastics.
Members of the U.S. Plastics Pact
The Pact is made up of more than 100 companies, including material suppliers, packaging companies, major retailers, and nonprofit and government organizations.
In addition to Amcor, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of plastic packaging, members include brand owners and retailers such as Aldi, Church & Dwight, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone North America, General Mills, Keurig Dr Pepper, Kimberly-Clark, Mondelez International, Nestle, Target Unilever, Walmart and many more. But government agencies, recycling companies, recycling industry associations and nonprofit organizations are also members of the U.S. Plastics Pact.
Concentrated pressure levels the playing field.
Participation in the U.S. Plastics Pact is voluntary, and publication of the list does not necessarily mean that every single Plastics Pact member approves and supports the move. But neither is that critical. Because reality is levelling the playing field. In the face of ever-increasing pressure from NGOs and the big players of retail and branded goods, there is neither way out nor loophole for stakeholders in the packaging value chain.
Where branded companies are fighting for their brands, retailers are pushing the pace and NGOs are publicly keeping the issue simmering and setting the framework, a de facto constraint is emerging. It does not require regulatory activities, or it runs ahead of the corresponding laws. Especially when almost all major players join in, the entire market is under pressure.