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P.15 "While delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or USD 80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure. The cost of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at USD 40 billion annually" 

P.19 "Current plastic packaging offers great functional benefits, but it has an inherent design failure: its intended useful life is typically less than one year; however, the material persists for centuries, which is particularly damaging if it leaks outside collection systems, as happens today with 32% of plastic packaging."

P.26 "More than 40 years after the launch of the well-known recycling symbol, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling."

P.26  "The recycling rate for plastics in general is even lower than for plastic packaging, and both are far below the global recycling rates for paper (58%) and iron and steel (70–90%). PET,14 used in beverage bottles, has a higher recycling rate than any other type of plastic, but even this success story is only a modest one: globally, close to half of PET is not collected for recycling, and only 7% is recycled bottle-to-bottle." 


P.26 "In addition to the 14% of plastic packaging collected for recycling, another 14% is sent to an incineration and/or energy recovery process...Many organisations have also raised concerns about the pollutants that are generated during energy recovery processes, which can have direct negative health effects if adequate pollution controls are not in place, as is often the case in the developing world. Also, even if appropriate pollution controls are in place, the resulting by-products need to be disposed of." 


P.26 "Furthermore, an overwhelming 72% of plastic packaging is not recovered at all: 40% is landfilled, and 32% leaks out of the collection system — that is, either it is not collected at all, or it is collected but then illegally dumped or mismanaged."

P.29 "One indicative data point is that plastic packaging comprises more than 62% of all items (including non-plastics) collected in international coastal clean-up operations."

P.29 "Even by 2025, the ratio of plastic to fish in the ocean is expected to be one to three, as plastic stocks in the ocean are forecast to grow to 250 million tonnes in 2025."

P.29 "Plastics are made from a polymer mixed with a complex blend of additives such as stabilisers, plasticisers and pigments, and might contain unintended substances in the form of impurities and contaminants. Substances such as bisphenol A (BPA) and certain phthalates, which are used as plasticisers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), have already raised concerns about the risk of adverse effects on human health and the environment, concerns that have motivated some regulators and businesses to act."

P.29 "The 150 million tonnes of plastics currently in the ocean include roughly 23 million tonnes of additives, of which some raise concern.37 While the speed at which these additives leach out of the plastic into the environment is still subject to debate, estimates suggest that about 225,000 tonnes of such additives could be released into the ocean annually."

P.33 "— a logistics system based on standardised, modularised, shared assets. Transitioning to the ‘Physical Internet’ could unlock significant economic value — estimated to be USD 100 billion and a 33% reduction in CO2 emissions annually in the United States alone."

P.33 "The city of Milan, for example, more than tripled its collection of food waste — from 28kg to 95kg per inhabitant per year — after the introduction of compostable bags for organic waste."

P.34 "Even with all these efforts, leakage is likely to remain significant. Even in the United States and Europe, with advanced collection systems, 170,000 tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year."

P.34 "Even if global recycling rates rose from today’s 14% to more than 55% — which would be higher than the rate achieved today by even the best-performing countries — annual requirements for virgin feedstock would still double by 2050."

P.36 "Recycling one additional tonne of plastics, for example, reduces emissions by 1.1–3.0 tonnes of CO2e compared to producing the same tonne of plastics from virgin fossil feedstock."

P.37 "Other countries have acted to restrict the use of plastic bags and other plastic packaging formats because of their impact on the local environment: In 2002, Bangladesh became the  rst country to ban plastic bags, after they were found to have choked drainage systems during devastating floods. Rwanda followed suit in 2008; and so did China, also in 2008, reducing the number of plastic bags in circulation by an estimated 40 billion in just one year. All in all, more than 25 countries around the globe either ban or tax single-use plastic bags, and restrictions on the use of other highly littered packaging formats are being discussed."

P.37 "The United States has seen activity at city, state and federal levels. In 2014, Washington DC banned the use of food service products made of expanded polystyrene, joining the ranks of tens of other US cities.69 In 2015, San Francisco took a step towards its 2020 goal of zero waste by banning the sale of plastic bottles in all public places.70 At state level, 70 laws were enacted between 1991 and 2011 to establish extended producer responsibility (EPR) programmes: 40 of these came in the three years up to 2011.71 These laws currently cover products like batteries, carpets and cell phones, not packaging, but they show state governments taking action to internalise the costs of dealing with negative externalities."

P.40 "While socio-economic differences need to be accounted for to some extent, there is ample room for systems redesign and convergence towards a set of archetypes. Redesigning systems and converging towards such well-de ned archetypes within the Global Plastics Protocol would allow alignment across the value chain. Material and packaging design, for example, could be optimised for clearly specified sorting facilities and consistent labelling harmonised across regions." 

P.49 "Only 35–40% of the virgin material value of plastics collected for recycling is currently retained for a next use cycle, indicating the need to complement efforts to increase the collected- for-recycling rates with actions to drastically improve recycling quality and economics."

P.51 "Sorting: Packaging items consisting of different elements, such as labels, caps, glues, or different material layers, can result in separation challenges. Some polymer types can also be hard to separate, such as PVC from PET after shredding, or oxo-degradable materials from their non-degradable counterparts. Some formats are more challenging to handle, such as small-format packaging and films. Sorting machines can find it difficult to identify packaging items, e.g. bottles covered in full- body sleeves."

P.51 "Adoption could be driven by a voluntary industry agreement, for example by building upon existing global platforms such as the Consumer Goods Forum. Global design guidelines could also o er a basis for policymakers wanting to set up incentive measures."

P.53 "Finally, a reduced number of facilities could lead to a more harmonised quality of bales supplied to the market, and could allow for better control and optimisation of the resource streams in the economy."

P.55 "A study for the EU Commission comparing different waste management options from a greenhouse gas perspective concluded that, ‘overall, source segregation of MSW [municipal solid waste] followed by recycling (for paper, metals, textiles, and plastics) and composting/AD (for putrescible wastes) gives the lowest net flux of greenhouse gases, compared with other options for the treatment of bulk MSW’."

P.55 "One third of bottled beverages are consumed away from home, for example."

P.56 "Nylon 6 is one of the very few polymers for which a closed-loop chemical recycling process is already in place on an industrial scale.123 Since the 1990s, end-of-life Nylon 6-based carpet scrap has been depolymerised into virgin-quality caprolactam. Today Aqua l applies this technology on an industrial scale. Their Econyl® polymer contains 100% recycled Nylon 6 content, of which at least 50% from post-consumer sources such as carpets or fishing nets.124 For each tonne of caprolactam produced in the ECONYL® process, 16.2 GJ of energy and 7 barrels of oil are saved, 1.1 tonnes of waste is eliminated and 4.1 tonnes of CO2e are avoided compared to the traditional fossil-based production route."

P.56 "Spider silk, for example, combines high strength and elasticity and is therefore a model polymer for development of high-performance fibres."


P.57 "The plastics fraction is unique in the sense that it consists of a variety of polymer types, each with different grades that need to be further separated in order to enable recycling. "


P.57 "Optical sorting technology recognises polymer types by illuminating the material and analysing the reflection spectrum."

P.57 "While the efforts described in design, collection, and sorting could lead to significant improvements in the purity of after-use plastic packaging streams, these streams will likely never be 100% pure. There will likely always be food or other contamination, some degree of sorting errors, and a range of different additives even if the streams contain single polymers."

P.58 "While breaking the PET chain is relatively easy, separating out the monomers from the colorants and additives is still costly and energy intensive."

P.59 "To enable effective recyclate markets, it is critical that manufacturers are able to find a supplier that can deliver recyclates with the right specifications, and recyclers are able to  and a buyer for their recycled products. It is not only about finding sufficient volumes but also about finding materials with the desired specifications in order to meet manufacturers’ performance requirements. Compared with virgin-plastic producers, suppliers of recycled plastics can be somewhat more limited in the material specifications they can deliver, depending on their intake of after-use plastic."

P.60 "The lack of transparent material composition, due to insufficient standardisation, increases the risk of — often costly — hiccoughs in the manufacturing process. The current situation is in stark contrast with the virgin-plastics industry, which is largely commoditised and supplies large volumes of standardised materials. In effective recycled plastics markets, the effort to find a supply of recycled materials with the desired specifications should ultimately be roughly similar to the effort necessary to source virgin materials, i.e. low."


P.60 "Voluntary commitments to use recycled content by (a group of) large (packaging) manufacturers or brand owners or an entire industry could create a significant pull effect."

P.62 "At UK supermarket Marks & Spencer, for example, each reusable plastic crate completes on average 300 trips before being repaired or recycled. Hence, while delivering the same or even better utility of transporting goods for a total number of trips, reusable packaging creates material savings versus single-use alternatives."

P.62 "For example, in both the US and Europe 25% of all road-based freight trips are empty,170 and of the non-empty trips only 60% of space is utilised, resulting in a load factor of under 50%. In addition, the high cost of space in urban centres is forcing distribution centres further out, creating a demand for ‘last mile’ distribution networks that cause congestion and exacerbate system inefficiencies."

P.64 "In Sweden, Svenska Retursystem operates such a pool of reusable packaging that services the whole retail sector — a model that, it claims, captures USD 18.7 million in savings and reduces waste by 50,000 tonnes annually."


P.64 "Since inception in 2001, nearly 1 billion crates have been delivered (replacing the same number of single-use packaging items) and the jointly owned operating company employs 135 people and operates four washing facilities across Sweden."


P.64 "Brambles is one example of such a reusable packaging service company. It is active in more than 60 countries, has over 14,000 employees, and owns around 470 million pallets, crates, and containers that it operates in a network of 850 service centres."

P.66 "Replenish estimates that in America every year 42.1 billion containers are used for products that are 70–90% water.181 By shipping just the active ingredient in concentrate form and assuming each container is reused in the home 30 times, the same value and convenience can be delivered with significantly reduced levels of packaging, estimated to be 341,000 tonnes of plastic packaging per annum in the United States alone."

P.66 "Rising packaging costs, improved product technologies, and faster distribution networks will likely boost adoption of innovative models. The relative cost of packaging is rising for some segments — in the United States the cost of fresh produce packaging is expected to grow 32% by 2024, while in the same period fresh produce production will grow only 2% as packaging takes on a greater role in the protection, traceability, and marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables."


P.66 "Commercially successful examples of reverse logistics models exist at scale: 47% of SABMiller’s current global business is in refillable bottles,186 and Coca-Cola is typically able to cycle its glass bottles 35–45 times."

P.67 "In Mumbai, India, a popular lunch-box delivery system offers a neat analogy for how the Physical Internet could work at the user level. Every day, over 200,000 dabbas (a standardised lunch box also known as the tiffin box), each containing a freshly cooked lunch, make their way across the complex maze of city streets and alleys to reach their end consumers. In a setting that combines high population density, limited infrastructure, congestion, and a largely illiterate workforce, the ti n system thrives thanks to its historically evolved routing code of coloured shapes, numbers, and letters that designate the direction of travel at each hub.

A collecting dabbawala or box carrier, usually on bicycle, collects dabbas either from a worker’s home or from a supplier. The dabbawala then takes them to a sorting place, where the boxes are sorted into groups. The grouped boxes are put onto coaches of trains and unloaded at stations according to the code, which also directs the local dabbawala to the point of delivery. The empty boxes are collected after lunch or the next day and returned to the respective point of origin with a high degree of accuracy — the unsubstantiated claim is that dabbawalas make less than one mistake in every six million deliveries."


P.68 "The definitions for industrially compostable materials differ slightly across regions (EN13432 for Europe, ASTM D400 and D6868 for the US). A material is in essence industrially compostable if it meets the following four criteria:


• Chemical characteristics: it contains at least 50% organic matter (based on dry weight) and does not exceed a given concentration for some heavy metals.

• Biodegradation: it biodegrades by at least 90% (by weight) within six months under controlled composting conditions (temperature of 58 +/- 2°C).

• Disintegration: it fragments into pieces smaller than 2 mm under controlled composting conditions within 12 weeks.

• Ecotoxicity: the compost obtained at the end of the process does not cause any negative effects (which could be measured, for example, by the effect on germination and growth of plants).


Home compostable materials are always also industrially compostable. However, in contrast

to industrially compostable materials, home compostable materials can be treated at ambient temperatures and the timeframes for biodegradation and disintegration can be longer. Moreover, parameters such as moisture content, aeration, pH, and carbon to nitrogen ratio do not need to be controlled."

P.68 "Bio-based, ‘biodegradable’ and compostable plastics are not the same:

The term ‘bioplastics’ is often loosely used to refer to plastics that are bio-based, biodegradable, or both. A material’s origin and the available after-use options need to be clearly distinguished. In addition, as outlined above this report gives preference to the term ‘compostable’ over ‘biodegradable’.


The term ‘bio-based’ describes a material’s origin — i.e. wholly or partly derived from biomass resources. Renewably sourced materials (bio-based and greenhouse gas-based materials) are further detailed in Chapter 10.


The term ‘compostable’ describes a material’s after-use option — i.e. that a material is suitable for the after-use pathway of home composting or industrial composting and fulfils the officially de ned criteria for the respective environment. The term ‘biodegradable’ itself describes only that a material can biodegrade into natural elements with the help of micro-organisms (see Appendix B).


Bio-based plastics are not necessarily compostable, as shown in Figure 17. Some bio-based plastics are designed for the technical cycle (bio-PET is recyclable) and some for the biological cycle (PLA is industrially compostable).


Some bio-based plastics, such as PLA and PHA, are technically both recyclable and industrially compostable, if the right infrastructure is in place.


Similarly, not only bio-based materials are compostable. Besides greenhouse gas-based plastics, also certain fossil-based plastics such as PBAT and BASF EcoFlex are industrially compostable. However, as such fossil-based compostable plastics represent a smaller segment of the market, they are not represented in Figure 17."

P.70 "With increasing agricultural production and utilisation of soils, returning biological nutrients back to the soil becomes even more important."


P.70 "According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, roughly one third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted."


P.70 "In the US, uneaten food in landfills is the largest component of municipal solid waste."


P.71 "After collection, compostable packaging and the biological nutrients from the packaged content can be brought back to the soil through anaerobic digestion (AD) and/or composting processes. For home compostable materials, there is the additional pathway of home composting."


P.71 "The main difference between anaerobic digestion and the industrial composting process is that the former occurs in the absence of oxygen. As

a result, the anaerobic digestion process yields biogas in addition to the digestate that can be used as fertiliser."

P.76 "Today, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics (of which estimates suggest that plastic packaging represents the majority) leak into the ocean — just one of the ‘sinks’ for leaked plastics — every year. Plastics that leak into oceans and other natural systems remain there for centuries resulting in high economic costs and causing harm to natural systems. "


P.76 "While the total economic impact is still unclear, initial studies suggest that it is at least in the billions of dollars. The report Valuing Plastic conservatively estimates the costs of the negative externalities of plastics in the oceans to be at least USD 13 billion."


P.76 "According to STAP, ‘more than 260 species are already known to be affected by plastic debris through entanglement or ingestion’.235 Plastics in oceans may also contain — or may act as a sponge for — a range of substances including some which raise concerns about potentially negative effects."


P.77 "Even in regions with advanced collection infrastructure, such as the US and Europe, 5% of plastics still escape the collection system, with plastic packaging particularly prone to leakage. Even in the case that leakage of plastic packaging could be reduced globally from 32% to 1%, about 1 million tonnes of plastic packaging would still escape collection systems and accumulate in natural systems each year."

P.79 "Plastics are usually made from a polymer mixed with a complex blend of materials known as additives. These additives, which include flame retardants, plasticisers, pigments, fillers, and stabilisers, are used to improve the different properties of the plastic or to reduce its cost. There are thousands of additives on the market. Today, 13.2 million tonnes of additives are produced annually, and global demand is forecast to continue increasing in the coming years, at about 4.5% annually in terms of volume."


P.79 "Moreover, recent scientific research shows that, even in low concentrations, the combined effects from exposure to certain substances over a prolonged period of time may have adverse effects on human health and the environment. Adverse effects include causing cancer, inducing mutations in an organism, or endocrine disruption, which means that substances mimic natural hormones in the body and thereby cause health problems such as diabetes and obesity."


P.80 "The styrene monomer — a precursor to polystyrene and several copolymers — has been found to leach out of packaging into food (simulants). Even if the migrated monomer concentration is low, concerns are raised because styrene is listed by the US National Research Council as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’."


P.80 "Phthalates are another example as many are suspected to be toxic for reproduction and endocrine-disrupting, with emerging evidence linking them to two of the biggest public health threats facing society — diabetes and obesity."


P.80 "Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are another example. Researchers, investigating the presence of a recycled polymer waste stream from waste electric and electronic equipment, have found these substances of concern in black plastics used in kitchen utensils."

P.81 "For example, brominated flame retardants, commonly used in plastics (such as (expanded) polystyrene and polypropylene), textiles, and electronic equipment, have been (or are scheduled to be) phased out via regulation or on a voluntary basis as they are associated with endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, and cancer.269 However, some hazardous flame retardants are still found in food packaging and as this presence is possibly linked to plastics recycling, concerns remain.270 Combined with limited transparency on substances in the mix of materials being recycled, contamination by SoCs could affect the (perceived) value of the recyclate. These concerns are conceptually similar to, for example, bisphenol A (BPA) issues in recycled paper.271 Also, substances of concern could be released during the recycling process."


P.81 "When burnt, plastic packaging can release or create substances of concern, including but not limited to the heavy metals contained in certain additives, acid gases, dioxins that are a product of incomplete combustion of chlorinated polymers, and other persistent organic pollutants that can significantly affect human health. In addition, combustion creates ultra fine particles that are toxic regardless of the hazard potential of the original material."


P.82 "The first one is the physical presence of plastic packaging debris which can cause entanglement, digestion blockage, and suffocation. The second one relates to microplastics, which can act like a sponge and attract hydrophobic substances of concern from the surrounding (marine) environment such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which subsequently could enter the food chain if ingested by marine animals."


P.82 "The 150 million tonnes of plastics currently in the ocean include approximately 23 million tonnes of additives."


P.82 "...some estimates of this speed suggest that about 225,000 tonnes of such additives are released into the oceans annually. This could increase to 1.2 million tonnes per year by 2050."


P.84 "Some experts claim that in the absence of direct information regarding cause and effect, the precautionary principle is critical to enhancing reproductive and endocrine health."

P.89 "Ecovative’s mushroom-based solution provides an alternative to polystyrene. Its Mushroom® packaging is literally grown to size using a crop waste feedstock. The process uses low levels of energy, produces no residue or waste (it is ‘additive’ in that sense), and the end product is shock-absorbing, fire resistant, and 100% home compostable."

P.100 "As pointed out by European Bioplastics, ‘“biodegradable” by itself is not more informative than the adjective “tasty” used to advertise food products’."

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