Ambition level consideration: Elimination ambition levels vary significantly among different plastic applications. According to the “Breaking the Plastic Wave” report, an ambitious target for fresh produce, based on today’s plastic volumes, is to eliminate 50% of plastic packaging by 2030 (1). But we do not have to wait until 2030 to see results. A key benefit of elimination, particularly direct elimination solutions, is that their implementation can be relatively fast, allowing for “quick wins” in the next one to three years. Similar plastic elimination levels should be possible for wrappers on durable items and multi-pack wrapping, and 50% is also the private label packaging elimination target recommended by WWF (8). Many of these products can be sold unpackaged, individually, or using innovative solutions such as edible coatings on produce, Glue Dots, or laser labeling.
Even higher ambition levels are recommended for plastic packaging defined as unnecessary (e.g., by different national plastics pact initiatives (9)), as well as for small packaging formats that are particularly challenging to recycle and should be either eliminated, turned into a recyclable format, or redesigned entirely ((9), (2)). Where small packaging does not fulfill an essential function, it can be directly eliminated (e.g., removing straws on bottles); in other cases, the required function can be met in innovative ways (e.g., switching to reusable straws or using a dissolvable coating around laundry tabs).
Considerations on different packaging formats: Elimination is most currently applicable for the following types of packaging:
Packaging for household items and clothing, and food or non-food multi-buy items, which are often wrapped in film (or other flexible plastics) but do not require a barrier layer, may be directly eliminated – high potential.
Packaging for fruit and vegetables that is only provided for convenience could be replaced with edible coatings or mist spraying to maintain freshness, or directly eliminated to sell products unpackaged – high potential.
Small attachments like straws, stirrers, and spoons can often be directly eliminated, while other small packaging formats can be replaced, such as by using dissolvable coatings for laundry tabs – high potential.
Packaging for products that may be able to be concentrated or delivered in an alternative format through innovation (e.g., by switching to reusable bottles, concentrates, or shampoo bars) – moderate to high potential.
Household items, toys, and similar products can be packaged in (windowed) multi-material boxes – low to medium potential.