New initiative to transform UK plastics system and tackle plastic pollution

11th January 2018

A new and unique collaborative initiative will help turn the tide on the UK’s growing issue of plastic waste.

If all the plastic bottles that are not collected for recycling in the UK each year were placed end to end, they would go around the world 31 times. It’s clear that wide-scale system change is required to make more of our plastic, keep it out of the ocean and in the economy.

The ambitious UK initiative will involve collaborative action and commitment by businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society at large, to re-define what is possible and create a plastic system that works - a circular economy where plastic is valued and doesn't pollute the environment.

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to:
● Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging
● Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
● Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging
● Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material
● Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter

The holistic initiative is currently in development by sustainable production and consumption experts WRAP, and is a joint partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Revealed today, in The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, it will be the first of a network of national implementation initiatives of the New Plastics Economy in several countries around the world, complementing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global initiative.

Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP, said:

“So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the life-cycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.”

Dame Ellen MacArthur, said:

“Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer-term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large. We are delighted to work with WRAP to help unleash such collaboration here in the UK, as a first national implementation initiative of our global New Plastics Economy initiative."

For plastic to become valued and never pollute the environment it’s imperative that everybody from those producing it (brands, retailers, food service businesses, packaging suppliers and plastic producers), collecting it (local and city authorities), sorting it and recycling it (waste management and recycling sector), to those using it (citizens) as well as Government, NGOs and media are involved. Everyone in the UK can and should engage.

Work is now underway to engage all parties, agree the ambitions and set up the initiative. More details will be shared in the Spring, when WRAP, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will officially launch the initiative. 

If you’re interested to keep up to date on the initiative, please visit and submit your details.


Notes to editor
About WRAP

● First established in 2000, WRAP is a not for profit organisation which works with governments, businesses and citizens to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably.
● Our impact spans the entire life-cycle of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we buy, from production to consumption and beyond.

About The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five key areas: 
  • Insight and analysis: with its Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Co. and SYSTEMIQ), the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a more circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. 
  • Business and government: the Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners (Danone, Google, H&M, Intesa Sanpaolo, NIKE, Philips, Renault, Solvay, Unilever), Core Philanthropic Funders (SUN, MAVA & People’s Postcode Lottery) and its CE100 network (businesses, universities, emerging innovators, governments, cities and affiliate organisations), to build capacity, explore collaboration opportunities and to develop circular business initiatives. 
  • Education and training: the Foundation has created global teaching, learning and training platforms on the circular economy, encompassing work with leading universities, schools and colleges, and online events such as the Disruptive Innovation Festival. 
  • Systemic initiatives: by establishing platforms such as the New Plastics Economy Initiative, the Foundation works to transform key material flows, applying a global, cross-sectoral, cross value chain approach that aims to effect systems change. 
  • Communication: the Foundation promotes the idea of a circular economy via research reports, case studies and books series using multiple channels, web and social media platforms, including which provides a leading online source for circular economy news and insight.

Further information: | @circulareconomy

About The New Plastics Economy

The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious, three-year initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. Applying the principles of the circular economy, it brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, governments, academics, students, NGOs, and citizens.

The initiative is supported by Wendy Schmidt as Lead Philanthropic Partner, MAVA Foundation, Oak Foundation, and players of People’s Postcode Lottery (GB) as Philanthropic Funders. Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Veolia are the initiative’s Core Partners.

The New Plastics Economy initiative focuses on five interlinked and mutually reinforcing building blocks:
1. Dialogue Mechanism – Bringing together for the first time a group of over 40 leading companies and cities across the global value chain to complete collaborative pioneer projects and inform the other building blocks
2. Global Plastics Protocol – Providing a common target state to innovate towards, to overcome existing fragmentation and enable the creation of effective markets
3. Innovation – Mobilising innovations that can scale globally, to re-define what’s possible and create the conditions for a new economy
4. Evidence Base – Building an economic and scientific evidence base to guide improvement and inform the global debate
5. Stakeholder Engagement – Engaging a broad set of stakeholders, including academics, students, governments, NGOs, and industry associations in the design of a better plastics system.

Learn more at | @NewPlasticsEcon