Companies pledge to improve plastic use to reduce water pollution

March 28, 2019
plastic bottles in ocean

Every March 22, World Water Day brings attention to the reasons why 844 million people live without safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. With an estimated 150 million tons of degraded plastic in the world’s oceans today and 4 to 12 million tons being added annually, plastic pollution in waterways is a significant contributor to the world’s water crisis. Companies, investors and other stakeholders are coming together through alliances like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy and the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter to form strategies to develop a more circular plastic economy and reduce waste. In the past year, companies including Nestlé, PepsiCo and Walmart have committed to make 100 percent of their packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025; others like Kroger have committed to phasing out single-use plastic bags by 2025. The recently released Global Commitment 2019 progress report also notes: 

  • Consumer goods companies and retailers have committed to increase recycled content in packaging from an average of 2 percent to 25 percent by 2025.
  • Thirty-six companies, including Mars, Inc.; Nestlé; Coca-Cola; and Unilever are publicly disclosing their annual plastic packaging production and use volumes.
  • The 107 consumer packaged goods, retail, and packaging producing signatories have committed to making 100 percent of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
  • Innovation toward reuse models remains one of the biggest gaps.
  • Hospitality and food service companies are not well represented among the signatories.

Mercy Investment Services and other investors continue to engage these and other companies on the implementation of these commitments, as well as further efforts to reduce plastic use. In the 2019 proxy season, Mercy Investment Services and As You Sow co-filed a resolution on PepsiCo’s efforts to reduce the company’s environmental impact through recycling and other plastic reduction efforts. After the company released a recycling report in December 2018, shareholders agreed to withdraw the resolution but will continue to engage PepsiCo on its commitments to reduce plastic pollution and strengthen recycling systems.