Global Plastics Policy Centre assesses approaches to adopt reuse systems to combat plastic pollution; review contains 320 articles and papers and 55 expert interviews; defines four-phase roadmap for transition
On May 30, 2023, the Global Plastics Policy Centre from University of Portsmouth published a report evaluating strategies to make reuse a reality. This is the second report published by the group in light of the intergovernmental negotiation committee (INC-2) on the global plastics treaty, that took place in Paris from May 29 – June 2, 2023. The treaty negotiations are seen as a major opportunity for industry and policymakers to support the transition to reuse systems, according to the accompanied press release.
The study was commissioned by the Break Free From Plastic civil organization and includes 320 scientific articles and papers, in addition to 55 interviews with leading reuse experts. The main goal of the research was to assess the effectiveness of different approaches on how to adopt reuse systems and move away from single-use and throw-away packaging. The study concludes with a simplified four-phase roadmap on how to make reuse a reality.
The authors define a ‘reuse system’ as “[…] a comprehensive system designed for multiple circulations of reusable packaging which remains in the ownership of the reuse system and loaned to the consumer.” Additionally, there is no single reuse system that can be applied universally, the researchers emphasize. Reuse systems ought to align with the specific business sector and socio-economic context.
The document proposes key factors to be considered for an effective transition to reuse systems. These include financial considerations, the need for collaboration for scaling reuse systems, but also the introduction of more rigorous standards concerning where and how to wash the reusable packaging, how to label it, and importantly what chemicals of concern are contained in the food contact materials used.
The authors also mention existing knowledge gaps. “[…] Developing comprehensive reuse life cycle assessments will help to assess the implementation and monitoring of reuse systems.” Data monitoring, lifecycle assessments and exploring perspectives of different communities and industries are paramount for transitioning to reuse systems, say the researchers.
A recent study led by scientists from the Food Packaging Forum explored the chemical safety of reusable and recycled plastic containers made for food contact. The research found several hundred chemicals are known to migrate from food packaging into food or simulants – many of these chemicals are known to be harmful, while others lack any toxicity data.
Global Plastics Policy Centre (May 30, 2023). “Making reuse a reality: A systems approach to tackling single-use plastic pollution.” University of Portsmouth
University of Portsmouth (May 30, 2023). “Reusable packaging revolution is close – experts say.”