INSIGHT by the World Economic Forum. This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The World Economic Forum’s Consumers Beyond Waste initiative is driving a shift towards reuse models through the standardization of measurement and is elevating reuse as a critical aspect of the UN agreement on plastic pollution.

Half of global plastic production is for single-use and only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling; reliance on recycling alone will not solve the waste problem.

The production of plastic also increases carbon emissions since it is a by-product of petroleum and it impacts health, with microplastics recently found in human blood.


| The impact of sustainable shopping

The World Economic Forum’s Consumers Beyond Waste initiative is working with partners to rapidly scale reuse models that will eliminate plastic waste.

Currently, half of global plastic production is for single-use and only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. Research shows that reusing just 10% of plastic products would reduce the amount of plastic waste reaching the ocean by 50%.

The initiative has been championing reuse since January 2019 and has brought together leading start-ups, consumer companies, nonprofits and governments to pave the way for responsible consumption and sustainable shopping models. These forward-thinking approaches have disrupted major industries such as food, beverage, and personal and home care.

Initially, this work focused on amplifying the efforts of innovators such as Loop and Algramo when reuse models were still nascent. Loop has now expanded globally and collaborates with leading companies including Aeon, Kroger, Tesco and Walgreens.

Algramo enables consumers to refill products such as dry foods, liquid detergents and personal care products in reusable containers at special dispensing stations. In 2021, Algramo reused over 230,000 plastic packages, equivalent to over 30 tonnes of plastic. These pioneering start-ups have raised the collective ambition to reduce plastic waste by reducing single-use plastic packaging through reuse models.

The Forum’s initiative continues to support breakthrough innovators such as MIWA and Muuse, which are revolutionizing consumption models. Global consumer companies are engaging with the Forum and these start-ups to better meet the demands of responsible citizens, who are motivated to lead more environmentally sustainable lives.

Collectively, these organizations are providing consumers with access to reuse models that offer more convenient, affordable and environmentally sustainable alternatives to single-use.


| What’s the challenge with plastic waste?

The amount of waste is growing so quickly that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Aside from its alarming waste footprint, the production of plastic increases carbon emissions, since plastic is a by-product of petroleum. Disposable packaging comes at an economic cost too, with 95% of its value lost after its initial use, which is estimated at roughly $100 billion annually. The impact on health is also becoming clearer, with scientists finding microplastics in human blood for the first time in March 2022.

Consumer sentiment to address plastic waste is also increasing. According to a recent survey from polling firm Ipsos, 88% of people worldwide support an international treaty to address plastic pollution, with United Nations negotiations currently underway to develop a legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.


| Our approach to reducing single-use plastic

By bringing together a community of global companies such as NestléPepsiCoP&GThe Coca-Cola Company and Unilever, the Consumers Beyond Waste initiative has established a reuse viability framework to enable an economically feasible transition to reuse.

The initiative has also established guidelines for health and safety, design and municipal considerations that offer a holistic perspective for policy-makers to mainstream reuse models.

In 2022, the initiative started a new phase of impact to accelerate globally consistent reuse models at scale. One of its priorities is to create a standardized measurement and reporting framework for plastics reuse by governments and companies.

For example, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola announced in 2022 that they would deliver 20% and 25%, respectively, of their beverage servings globally through reusable packaging by 2030. Against these developments, members within the initiative’s community felt it was critical to ensure a standardized reuse measurement across industry sectors.

Since March 2022, a coalition of leading consumer companies (Amcor, Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and Walmart) and NGOs (the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Greenpeace and WWF) advanced efforts on plastics reuse measurement and reporting. Collectively, it has aligned on two priority metrics and developed guidelines to test the metrics in 2023 across a selection of corporate pilots.

Learnings from a metrics trial in 2023 will inform global policies for reuse.

Through its commitment to create a future free of plastic waste, the Consumers Beyond Waste initiative is also advancing efforts to elevate reuse as a central part of United Nations negotiations to forge a historic agreement on plastic pollution in the next two years.

The initiative welcomes further industry commitments as it continues to play a leading role in the transition towards plastic reuse models at scale.


| How can you get involved?

The World Economic Forum invites partners and members to co-create responsible consumption and sustainable shopping models to benefit society, business and the planet through its Platform for Shaping the Future of Consumption.

Do you want to team up with other responsible start-ups, companies, policy-makers, NGOs and experts to address the plastic waste crisis and join this movement to accelerate innovative reuse models at scale?

Contact us to learn how you can get involved.


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