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What is the Circular Economy?

While there are many definitions, a circular economy for plastics simply means that plastics are repurposed rather than discarded after use. For example, once a plastic molecule is made, it can be repurposed again (sometimes indefinitely) for its highest and best use. The molecule is kept in use and out of the environment.

The term Circular Economy is most often associated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that espouses the “principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.” The concept has been accepted and championed by plastics producers and broad parts of the economies around the world. Most have committed to some degree to transitioning from a linear economy for materials to a circular economy, primarily to contribute to sustainability and better steward our shared resources.


Circularity Plastic Packaging Goals

Today only approximately 13 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. The plastics industry has pledged to achieve a circular economy for plastic packaging so that 100 percent of used plastic packaging in the U.S. will be reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040.


Obstacles to Circularity

Supply and demand are critical challenges that must be addressed to reach circularity for plastic packaging, but they aren’t the only ones. Learn how we’re working to address the obstacles to circularity.

The United States Capitol Building, seen from reflection pool on dusk.

Advancing Circular Economy Policies

To help keep plastic packaging out of the environment and in productive use, public policy both at home and abroad should be designed to improve waste management and recovery of used plastics.