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The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has today launched its latest report The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action. The report contains a clear action plan to tackle global plastics issues, endorsed by more than 40 business and government leaders, including Mike Barry, M&S’s Plan A Director. It presents a pathway to increase global reuse and recycling rates for plastic packaging to 70%, and highlights that the remaining 30% requires fundamental redesign and innovation. Mike Barry points out that the world’s oceans face an enormous challenge as climate change warms them and makes them more acidic, from overfishing and, of course, from plastics pollution. The New Plastic Economy has given us a strategic route map to turn the tide on plastic pollution and now the launch of the Circular Design Toolkit turns this big vision into something practical that can be implemented by designers in any industry globally.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been instrumental in creating a global mind change in sustainable thinking, in particular moving Circular Economy (CE) up the agenda to a place where it is about to be enshrined in European Law. The UK will need to adopt the CE principles as the core of business and government practice if we are to create a sustainable future.

M&S recognises how important EMF has been in creating a wider dialogue and language around this subject, and how they have taken the commercial realities of CE and identified where best to place effort to make it a reality.

The New Plastics Economy was an obvious and important project for M&S to support. We have been involved through participation in the Plastics Road Map publication in 2016 and now the Circular Design Toolkit, a new resource for anybody who wants to do circular design, providing innovation methods and processes that we can all refer to. In addition, we have been embedded in a series of pilot projects that look at very real CE issues surrounding packaging. One example is to evaluate and specify the role compostable materials can play in fruit and vegetable packs. Could the packs be safely and positively added to the peelings bin for instance? Another project is looking at how various types of plastics can be easily identified and separated in the waste stream so that consumers don’t have to worry about ‘doing the wrong thing’ with the bonus of maximising recovery of materials.

We see this collaborative way of working with 70 of Europe's top companies as being essential to the delivery of workable and dynamic CE solutions for our own business, which will ultimately enable us to deliver more sustainable products to our customers.  Plastics are just the beginning, the basic CE principles being every bit as applicable to producing food, clothing and homeware as sustainably as possible.

For myself as senior packaging technologist at M&S Food with responsibility for polymers, this a truly exciting and game changing collaboration with EMF and is going a long way to put us back in the lead in producing optimum packaging for our customers. 

The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action report launched today at Davos newplasticseconomy.org

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