Progress Update: The New Plastics Economy

To date there have been more than 1,400 Our Ocean commitments across 6 themes submitted by almost 350 organizations across all sectors – governments, businesses, academic institutions, and civil society. Over 500 commitments have been self-reported as 100% complete and almost 500 self-report some form of progress.  In this Our Ocean Palau blog series, we highlight Our Ocean commitments and their positive impact.

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment: towards a circular economy for plastics 

With 14 million tonnes of plastic currently entering the ocean each year, urgent action is needed. Clean-up efforts are not enough; plastic waste needs to be eliminated at its source.

In the Our Ocean Conference of 2018, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme, launched the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, uniting businesses, governments and supporting organisations behind a shared vision for a circular economy in which plastic never becomes waste.

The Global Commitment is underpinned by a six-point vision that focuses on upstream innovation. It outlines a circular economy for plastics in which problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging is eliminated through redesign, innovation and new delivery models. It encourages reuse business models that reduce the need for single-use packaging, and ensures plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by design and in practice, supported by infrastructure.

The Global Commitment is part of the Foundation’s work to accelerate a total shift to a circular economy that goes beyond plastics to address all industries. It sees all waste designed out as material streams become circular and regenerative rather than linear and extractive.

For global transformations to take place across industries, international events like the Our Ocean Conference was a vital opportunity, as it allowed for stakeholders to come together to discuss the issues we are facing, as well as the possible solutions.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UN Environment Programme call on all businesses that make or use plastics, and all governments across the world, to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics. The question is not whether creating a circular economy is possible, but what we are going to do together to make it happen.

Project Update

  • Since launching in October 2018 at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UNEP’s Global Commitment has united over 500 organisations, including companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, behind a common vision of a circular economy for plastics.
  • After decades of growth, virgin plastic use appears to have peaked for Global Commitment brands and retailers and is set to fall faster by 2025. Brands and retail signatories have now collectively reduced their virgin plastic consumption for the second year in a row, and this is set to fall faster thanks to new mandatory reduction targets.
  • Progress among Global Commitment signatories has so far largely been driven by recycling, but that is not enough to solve plastic pollution. Much more focus is urgently needed on eliminating single-use packaging in the first place.
  • As of November 2021, eight out of nine national governments reporting to the Global Commitment indicated they have set or are planning to implement extended producer responsibility policy (EPR) policies by 2025. Governments can build on this strong and constructive signal from industry, to accelerate the implementation of EPR policy for packaging.


The Our Ocean Conference is a vital opportunity for stakeholders across the plastics value chain to come together and collectively address global issues like the plastic pollution crisis. In 2018 the conference helped launch the Global Commitment, led by the Foundation and UNEP, and three years on, virgin plastic use appears to have peaked among brand and retail signatories.

 These voluntary commitments and progress are crucial, but voluntary efforts alone won’t be enough. We need governments to set the enabling conditions through an ambitious global treaty on plastic pollution.

– Sander Defruyt, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Initiative Lead

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