The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)’s Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste is receiving widespread support from Canadian retail and consumer packaged goods companies for its Golden Design Rules for Plastic Packaging.
Fifty per cent of all plastic produced globally (380 million tons per year) is for single-use purposes, resulting in 10 million tons of plastic getting dumped in our oceans every year. According to the Ellen McCarthur Foundation, “There will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050.”
Only nine per cent of plastic waste gets recycled, in part due to the complicated recycling process. This can be further exacerbated by poor packaging design, problematic materials and excess packaging.
“Currently, the recycling system is challenged by the large diversity of plastic packaging types and shapes in the recycling stream,” said George Roter, managing director of the Canada Plastics Pact (CPP), in a release.
To address this problem, the coalition outlined its four main priorities at its 2020 inauguration:
– packaging redesign;
– developing a framework for optimal Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs;
– encouraging recycling innovation;
– piloting new programs in advanced and transitional markets to increase recycling rates.
Coalition launches Golden Design Rules
Guided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a New Plastics Economy, which the CGF endorsed in October 2018, the coalition launched its first two “Golden Design Rules” in December 2020 with the goal of reducing plastic waste in oceans and landfills. It published seven additional rules in July 2021, all aligned with globally-recognized technical guidelines.
The global rules were developed collaboratively with industry experts and the 42 coalition members. The CGF is co-sponsored by Galen Weston, executive chairman and president of Loblaw, and Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever.
“Retailers and consumer product companies represent about one-third of Canada’s plastic waste,” said Weston in a release. “That means we should be at least a third of the solution. We design, make and sell the products. By making impactful packaging decisions we can keep plastics in the value chain and out of nature.
“The Golden Design Rules offer our industry the clarity and opportunity to drive circularity and address plastic pollution. It’s our job to lead, partner, and apply urgency so these fundamental design changes become the industry norm.
“Smarter systems begin with smarter material choices.”
The nine rules are:
1. increase value of PET recycling;
2. remove problematic elements from packaging;
3. eliminate excess headspace;
4. reduce plastic overwrap;
5. increase recycling value for PET thermoformed trays and other thermoformed packaging;
6. increase recycling value in flexible consumer packaging;
7. increase recycling value in rigid HDPE and PP;
8. reduce virgin plastic use in business-to-business plastic packaging;
9. use on-pack recycling instructions.
The rules include reducing plastic overwrap in multipacks, eliminating air space in flexible plastic packaging like snack bags, and improving recyclability by using single-material plastics.
The objectives are to eradicate unnecessary or difficult-to-recycle packaging, increase the value of packaging types recycled at scale (or could be recycled at scale in the future), improve the environmental performance of business-to-business packaging and improve consumer communications.
These rules provide a framework to drive innovation and measurable actions to reduce plastic packaging and implement easier-to-recycle plastic packaging by 2025.
The CPP leads the consultation and implementation of the Golden Design Rules nationally.
“By driving this process through the CPP, we gain the additional benefit of aligning players across the plastics value chain in the implementation of the Golden Design Rules, allowing brands and retailers to act in the context of the broader system,” said Roter in a release.
Participation is voluntary, and companies can use the rules as guidelines to identify and prioritize opportunities based on their unique packaging portfolios.
“Companies supporting and committing to the Golden Design Rules will help to catalyse positive systems-wide change for improved recyclability,” said Roter in the release. “By committing to and engaging with the Golden Design Rules, companies are saying, ‘We want to be part of the solution’ and demonstrating that they are ready for change through concrete actions like eliminating excess headspace in packaging or changing to a different type of plastic that is easier to recycle.”
The Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste
The Coalition is comprised of 42 Canadian companies, including Canadian Tire, P&G Canada and Henkel Canada Corporation.
“Henkel strongly supports the Golden Design Rules,” said Rob Bertok, president, Henkel Canada Corporation, in a release. “We recognize our responsibility related to packaging and remain committed to minimizing plastic waste and promoting a circular economy.
“Our efforts to achieve our ambitious sustainability goals are brought to life through strong collaboration with partners, and we are proud to be a part of this important and significant initiative.”
Several more partners in the CPP have indicated their support for the Golden Design Rules, including The Retail Council of Canada, the National Zero Waste Council, Canadian Bottled Water Associations and the Recycling Council of Alberta.
The Canada Plastics Pact
The CPP operates as an independent initiative of The Natural Step Canada, a national charity with over 25 years of experience advancing science, innovation and strategic leadership designed to foster a strong and inclusive economy that thrives within nature’s limits.
The CPP is encouraging companies, experts and stakeholders across the plastics industry to develop voluntary guidelines that are tailored to Canada, but also aligned with global goals. The CPP and its partners will also collaborate on providing guidance, support and learning materials, as well as implementation and reporting programs to track companies’ progress.