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Page added on November 21, 2021

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‘Peak virgin plastics’ and climate change

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The concept of peak oil has been widely debated. Now we may start to talk about the idea of “peak virgin plastic.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation put the idea out there this week, that at least among major consumer product companies and retailers and their packaging, they’ve peaked on their use of virgin plastic.

Are the actions of those major companies, like Coca-Cola, Unilever and Walmart, foreshadowing what’s coming in the rest of the plastics packaging market? Certainly could be.

EMF’s Nov. 16 report card is an annual update on the detailed steps taken by about 100 large companies that signed up for its Global Commitment.

It’s a multiyear effort to rethink their plastics use, whether that’s recycled content, reusable packaging or other steps, and report publicly on what they’re doing.

Looking further into the future, but on a similar theme, the consulting firm Wood MacKenzie released its own report Nov. 18 arguing that the world will hit “peak plastic,” calling it a time “in which demand growth moderates and consumption of fossil fuel feedstocks declines.”

“The plastics industry must go under the knife for a more sustainable future,” it said.

Plastics companies are beginning to contemplate a plastics future divorced from fossil fuels.

Packaging giant Berry Global announced yesterday a “long-term vision to decouple from fossil fuels,” as part of an effort to hit 30 percent use of “circular” plastics by 2030.

Machinery makers, too. The German VDMA association, which represents that country’s large plastics and rubber equipment sector, released an executive interview Nov. 18 discussing how the industry could, theoretically, “do without fossil fuels altogether” with much more recycling.

On the heels of the COP26 summit, it’s interesting to see a series of reports focus attention on the possibility of separating plastics from fossil fuels.


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