Upstream Innovation: Guide to Packaging Solutions

June 2, 2023

This guide is not about the state of global plastic pollution. It’s about solutions.

This book is intended as a practical guide to help organizations innovate towards achieving their circular economy goals for packaging. Packed with practical tips, decision support frameworks, and case studies, it is designed for marketers, product designers, and packaging engineers new to the idea of a circular economy for packaging, as well as for seasoned practitioners.

In January 2016, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the landmark report The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the Future of Plastics, laying bare for the first time the enormous environmental and economic downsides associated with our current “take-make-waste” plastics economy. It gained global headlines with its estimate that, on the current track, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050. Most importantly, the report presented a way forward, laying out a vision of a plastic system that can work in the long term — a vision of a circular economy for plastics (see p. 6).

The circular economy is a bigger idea that goes beyond treating the symptoms of the current economy to tackle the root causes of many global challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss, while providing opportunities for better growth. It can scale fast across industries, providing the solutions that people are calling for. It is now widely recognised that a circular economy approach is the only solution that can match the scale of the plastic pollution problem. It allows us to redesign the entire plastics system to not only overcome this global challenge, but to do so in a way that allows us to build better growth, and create solutions at speed and scale. More than 1,000 organisations have united behind the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision of a circular economy for plastic, in which we eliminate the plastic we don’t need, innovate towards new materials and business models, and circulate all the plastic we use. In addition, businesses accounting for more than 20% of global plastic packaging use have set ambitious 2025 targets in line with this vision.

With 2025 just around the corner, it is time to deliver solutions. This guide is here to help. We hope you find this guide a useful resource during our collective journey towards a circular economy for plastic.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation Plastics team
November 2020

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