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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Plastic pollution has caused significant environmental and health challenges. Corporations that contribute to the manufacture, use, and distribution of plastics can play a vital role in addressing global plastic pollution and many are committing to voluntary pledges. However, the extent to which corporations’ voluntary commitments are helping solve the problem remains underexplored.
In the journal One Earth, Duke researchers shared findings from an examination of the types of commitments that corporations have made to address global plastic pollution.
The authors developed a novel typology to characterize voluntary commitments to reduce plastic pollution made between 2015 and 2020 by 973 companies, including the top 300 of the Fortune Global 500. They found that 72% of these companies have made some form of commitment(s) to reduce plastic pollution. About 67% of companies participating in voluntary environmental programs (VEPs) and 17% of non-VEP participants made measurable and timebound commitments.
However, rather than tackle virgin plastics, most companies target packaging and general plastics and frequently emphasize recycling-related efforts, the authors found. Growing commitments on plastic pollution are made by large and important companies, but significantly more efforts beyond plastic recycling are required to effectively address plastic pollution challenges, the authors reported.