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Replacing Plastic Packaging with Common Alternatives Would Increase Environmental Impacts

 

WASHINGTON (June 17, 2020) – As You Sow (AYS) released a report today called, “Waste & Opportunity 2020,” which assesses the efforts of leading brands against several of AYS’s criteria. Keith Christman, managing director of ACC’s Plastics Division, issued the following statement:

America’s plastic makers fully support the efforts of companies and stakeholders across the plastics value chain who are working collaboratively to help expand opportunities to reuse our plastics resources and eliminate plastic waste.

We have set goals for all U.S. plastic packaging to be recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and to be re-used, recycled or recovered by 2040. Many of our members were founding partners of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which has committed $1.5 billion in funding over five years to help invest in recycling and waste management infrastructure, particularly in areas where most leakage occurs.

However, replacing plastics in packaging with common alternatives would be a big step in the wrong direction. Plastics enable us to ship more product with less packaging material, helping to significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse house emissions. Life cycle studies show that replacing plastic packaging with alternatives would increase energy use by 82 percent, nearly double greenhouse gas emissions, and increase waste – even after recycling.

The most certain way to preserve plastics’ benefits and end waste is to move toward using plastics with greater circularity – that is to find ways to redeploy our plastics resources, after they are initially used, to meet some of society’s greatest needs. We can achieve this by redesigning plastic packaging for greater efficiency and reuse potential; modernizing our recycling infrastructure through emerging technologies; and adopting new business models that incorporate greater reuse and recycling.

Today, a shared spirit of intense collaboration and innovation is driving these important changes across the plastics value chain. Since 2017, roughly $5 billion in private-sector recycling investments have been announced in the United States, most of which are intended to build out advanced recycling technologies. We will continue to strongly support solutions that can significantly expand the types and volumes of plastics that can be reused and repurposed.

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