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The Future of Plastic

We believe in a world where information provided to everyone should be accessible, reliable, and clear to enable consumers to easily make sustainable and healthy everyday life choices. As consumers, we are increasingly aware of the impact of plastic on the environment and want to reduce our use. However, the information provided to make more sustainable choices is not always clear or actionable, leading to confusion.

Now is a critical time in highlighting, addressing, and tackling plastic pollution as the global COVID-19 pandemic adds to the rise of single-use plastics including face masks, gloves, and food packaging.

Globally, more businesses are making commitments to reduce plastic production and prioritise recycling and reuse, but strong, independent consumer research and advocacy is needed to ensure words turn into action. Most importantly, 2021 is a key year in the effort to achieve an international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution, and spark global conversations on what will need to be a decade of action on tackling the plastic pollution and its biodiversity and health impacts.

A global study in 2019 found that 82% of respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions to tackle plastic pollution. This demonstrates that consumers care and want change. Consumer advocacy plays an important role in this by raising awareness of the inadequacy of existing solutions for managing plastic waste. This is one way to influence governments to support the creation of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastics at the 5th UN Environment Assembly in February 2022.

OUR WORK IN THIS AREA

Consumers International and our consumer advocacy leaders from our membership have been directly supporting consumers through crisis. Since 2020, we shared a vision for 2030 which includes achieving sustainable consumption for everyone across the world. Most importantly, making sustainability the easy choice for consumers, and that it is accessible and affordable for all.

In efforts to shine light on the current consumer experience with plastic packaging, Consumers International have been working with our global consumer advocacy membership and the UN Environment Programmes, Consumer Information for Sustainable Consumption & Production (CI-SCP) Programme  as part of SDG 12, to set out recommendations for policy-makers, governments, and businesses to enable a fairer, safer, and more sustainable marketplace for all.

CAN I RECYCLE THIS?

 

The report, developed by Consumers International in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and CI-SCP, aims to address the 4th UN Environment Assembly’s Resolution 6 on Marine litter and Microplastics. Globally, only about 9% of plastic waste has been recycled and about 12% has been incinerated. The vast majority ends up in landfill or leaks into the environment.

 The report provides a global mapping of existing standards, labels and claims on plastic packing. Through an expert consultation, labels and claims were then assessed against the five fundamental principles of the Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information. The research found only 19% of assessed labels give consumers quality information to make informed recycling and purchasing decisions. In response, the report authors provide five recommendations for clearer and more effective communications about materials, production, recyclability, and disposal of plastic packaging.

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CREDIBLE SUSTAINABILITY INFORMATION ON PLASTIC PACKAGING

To effectively implement the 5 recommendations of the ‘Can I Recycle This?’ report, Consumers International developed a series of 3 key messages for stakeholders. The three key messages provide practical action points that businesses, governments and standard-setting bodies and labelling organisations can take to improve the landscape of consumer information on plastic packaging and reduce confusion.

For standard setters

For governments

For businesses

Five case studies were also developed as examples on how to provide credible sustainability information on plastic. The case studies highlight labels on plastic packaging from across the globe which support consumers in their purchase, use and disposal of plastic packaging.

Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) 

The ABC system in Denmark

The Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging (LPRP) in Singapore

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) in South Africa

Global UL Recycled Content Validation Mark

WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY - Tackling Plastic Pollution

The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2021 was "Tackling Plastic Pollution" - an issue that affects consumer globally.

Consumers International and our members aimed to highlight the importance of fighting plastic pollution using the 7Rs of waste management and emphasise the essential role consumers, and consumer advocacy, can play in driving progress towards a more sustainable planet.

73 members carried out campaigns that ranged from advocating to policymakers and business to workshops on sustainable packaging. Collectively, we reached a total global audience of over 31 million consumers.

 

FIND OUT MORE

Leadership Perspectives Webinar

 

On March 9, 2021, Consumers International were delighted to have hosted the "World Consumer Rights Day 2021: Leadership Perspectives Webinar. Our panel include leaders from the consumer advocacy movement (DDC and CAG), business (The Body Shop and Polymateria), and civil society (Greenpeace and SYSTEMIQ) to speak on the complex issue of plastics. Our panellists highlight the importance of sustainable consumption, the fight against plastic pollution, and the essential role of consumers, and consumer advocacy play in driving progress towards a more sustainable planet.

Ocean Conservancy shares valuable insights on the impact of plastics in our oceans.


Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy highlights how the production and consumption of plastics has "skyrocketed" since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, consumers are in "a unique position to demand change":

  • "We can opt for products that are made of alternatives to plastics."
  • "We can choose reusable instead of single-use products."
  • "We can choose products made of recycled material and that can be truly recycled"

THE CONSUMER LENS ON PACKAGING 

 

The rise of single use packaging is having a disastrous effect on the environment. On Earth Day 2021 Consumers International launched ‘The Consumer Lens on Packaging 2021’ together with 9 of our Members to demonstrate the real consumer experience of sustainable packaging across 11 internationally branded products. The research found that consumers in all nine countries are unable to easily recycle all of the products assessed in practice; misleading, unclear, and confusing labelling on all of the products limited consumer choice at purchase and at point of recycling; and best practice in sustainable packaging, labelling information and recycling infrastructure varied across countries. This type of research provides the view of the real consumer on where progress is needed to reach our collective goals.

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