Enabling a circular economy

There is a need for a critical shift away from the "take-make-dispose" model and towards circular systems that keep materials and products in use for as long as possible.

To do this, six interlinked gaps must be bridged. This demands systemic changes that require policymakers, corporates, investors, civil society and communities to work together.

Only then can we end plastic waste.

Six gaps to circularity

  • Quantity Gap
  • Quality Gap
  • Affordability Gap
  • Design Gap
  • Data Gap
  • Alignment Gap

Despite increasing demand for recycled plastics, a shortfall in supply persists.

Poor coverage of waste management systems in many areas leads to low collection rates. This means that only a fraction of plastic waste gets recycled.

Better collection, sorting and processing practices can help.


3 billion

Many in middle-and low-income countries do not have access to adequate controlled waste management services. Fit-for-purpose infrastructure will improve collection rates and reduce the impact of plastic waste leakage.


Current technical capabilities cannot adequately sort, process or recycle the range of plastic waste in use today.

Innovation that addresses these challenges and delivers quality feedstock could result in a better balance between costs and value, allowing recycled plastics to compete with virgin plastics.


$120 billion
or less is lost yearly

The value of plastic packaging is lost every year because it is not collected and recycled. With fit-for-purpose infrastructure and recycling solutions, the value of these plastics can be captured and unlocked.


High infrastructure costs, volatile markets for recyclates, and low prices of virgin materials have led to market failure for plastic waste management.

Economic incentives and novel financing models can help make recycling more commercially viable and improve coverage globally.


$510 billion
to collect plastic waste

Based on projected estimates for the 2021 - 2040 period. Improving the economics of plastics recycling could contribute to better management of plastic waste.


Products and packaging need to be designed as much for the use phase as for the post-use phase.

Reduce and reuse business models can help eliminate avoidable plastic and reduce waste, while designing for recycling could improve the quantity and quality of recyclates, and lower recycling costs.


of plastics can be made recyclable

By using simpler and fewer materials, as well as better labelling, the design of plastic products and packaging can be improved for recycling.


There is a lack of reliable local and global data to guide intervention along the plastics value chain
What is not measured cannot be used to inform better waste management strategies.

A standardised global monitoring framework will allow for more targeted interventions, and help ensure accountability.


of countries lack national waste information systems

Data is also absent or sparse for many developing countries, which are at higher risk of waste mismanagement.


Multiple and differing perspectives and priorities exist on the problems and solutions for ending plastic waste.

Increased stakeholder alignment allows for national and, eventually, international roadmaps to circularity to be agreed upon.

This maximises the impact of capital, innovation, and resources.


UN member states

Approved a 2022 resolution for an international, legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. The framework for this will be implemented in 2025.

Circularity in plastics can bring about socioeconomic change.

By convening key stakeholders along the value chain, we can overcome challenges and find better solutions–today, and for future generations.

Bridging the gaps

  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation
  • Education
  • Cleanups

Education is critical to bringing about positive changes in attitudes and behaviour, which can help drive the transition towards circularity. It can also enhance household recycling literacy. Over the longer term, this can reduce waste, and help improve the quantity and quality of recyclates.

Aviral waste
Aviral–Reducing Plastic Waste in the Ganga
Holding training workshops and community engagement campaigns to drive awareness on the Ganga’s plastic waste challenge.
  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Alignment
Ocean Stewards
Ocean Stewards
Encouraging students to collect, clean, sort and recycle household plastic waste by educating them about waste management.
  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Alignment
Teaching students about the plastic waste challenge and how they may address it through action-oriented learning.
  • Quality
  • Alignment

Even as plastic is being addressed at its source, the amount of plastic waste already in the environment must be dealt with, and where possible, fed back into the circular economy. Many hands can help restore clean and safe living environments. Cleanups also reinforce why changing habits and attitudes is important.

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