Rethinking the future of plastics

The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics lays out, for the first time, the material flows and realities of today’s plastics economy, and outlines a system with fundamentally better economic and environmental outcomes – a new plastics economy.

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, launched the report The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics at the World Economic Forum in Davos. For the first time, the research provides the vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste.

The report, financially supported by the MAVA Foundation, was the result of a collaborative effort involving more than 40 participant companies and cities across the global plastic packaging value chain. It was produced as part of Project MainStream, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with McKinsey & Company as a knowledge partner, and led by the CEOs of nine global companies.

The report acknowledges that, while plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, their value chains currently entail significant drawbacks. Assessing global plastic packaging flows comprehensively for the first time, the report finds that:

  • Most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth USD 80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. 
  • Plastic packaging generates negative externalities, valued conservatively by UNEP at USD 40 billion. Given projected growth in consumption, in a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget.

In this context, an opportunity beckons for the plastics value chain to deliver better system-wide economic and environmental outcomes, while continuing to harness the benefits of plastic packaging. 

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The New Plastics Economy has three ambitions: create an effective after-use plastics economy; drastically reduce leakage of plastics into natural systems and other negative externalities; decouple plastics from fossil feedstocks.

What others are saying

The New Plastics Economy report attracted global media coverage, reaching the attention of millions worldwide.

Thousands of news articles were published worldwide about the report. See some of our top picks on major news outlets:

Watch some of our top picks of TV and video coverage during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos 2016: