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30 by ’30?

Action #1 in the 5 Actions to Accelerate a Circular Economy for Plastics

Matthew Kastner

Did you hear that America’s Plastic Makers recently called for a national recycling standard requiring all plastic packaging to include at least 30% recycled plastics by 2030?

It’s true. It’s kind of a big deal. And it’s not going to be easy.

Sometimes referred to as “30 by ’30,” it’s the first of five actions needed to jumpstart plastics recycling and accelerate sustainable change in the plastics recycling markets.

In July we announced these 5 Actions for Sustainable Change Congress can take immediately to grow the circular economy for plastics through a comprehensive, national strategy (read more here).

The first action is probably the boldest: Require use of recycled plastic in plastic packaging. Not a little bit. A lot. Not decades from now. By decade’s end.

This means that by 2030, a brand’s plastics packaging will need to average 30% recycled plastics across its product portfolio. It’s an aggressive goal but also one that’s attainable. And a positive lift for sustainability.

Plastic makers and brand companies are committed to achieving recycled plastics sustainability goals. And since most of these companies operate nationally, it makes sense to approach this as a national opportunity.

Today, about 6 billion pounds of plastics are collected for recycling. We’ll need to produce 13 billion pounds of recycled plastic to meet the 30 by ’30 standard, according to a recent report by the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. So, you see the difficulty of the problem…

To bridge this gap, we’re going to need more household access to recycling collection systems, better ways to sort plastics collected, and an upgraded recycling infrastructure. And we’ll need rapid scaling of advanced recycling technologies and facilities that can produce recycled plastics for food, medical, and pharmaceutical markets, which are mostly out of reach for traditional mechanical recycling processes.

Even though there is much work to be done to meet the 30 by ’30 standard, it will certainly drive a consistent national approach to recycling and encourage the development of efficient recycling systems, something that’s been sorely missing. The last major piece of Federal legislation on waste/recycling was passed during the Ford Administration.

Plastic makers are ready to roll up their sleeves and work with Congress towards passing new legislation that supports a circular economy for plastics. A strong majority (83%) of Americans support the plastics industry taking “big, bold steps to address plastic waste,” according to a recent survey of 1,400+ Americans. The survey also found broad, bipartisan support across parties, ideologies, and demographics. The desire and framework are in place—now it’s time to make it happen.

The 30 by ’30 action is just the beginning. Among the other four actions is development of an American-designed producer responsibility system for packaging that raises funding to improving recycling. That’s right: a producer funded system, something many have resisted for decades.

Check back here in September to learn about the second action—developing a modern regulatory framework—and its role in achieving a circular economy for plastics.

About the Author
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

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