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Plastic is used in many aspects of modern life, from food packaging and the houses we live in to medical instruments like syringes. It would be fair to say that the invention of this lightweight, strong, waterproof material has had a profound impact on our lives – but it comes with a downside: plastic waste and pollution.

The world produces 1900% more plastic per year than it did 50 years ago, with packaging being the biggest reason. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 78 million tonnes of plastic packaging material is produced every year, of which 40% end up in a landfill, 32% leaks into the environment, 14% is incinerated and only 14% is collected for further processing like recycling. Plastic waste is also often found in waterways and on beaches. In an effort to tackle this waste, the European Parliament adopted new rules on single-use plastics in 2019.

ING has endorsed the New Plastics Economy (NPEC) Global Commitment vision by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This is a joint effort by the industry and governments to tackle plastic waste and pollution and increase the recycled content of plastic packaging from a global average of 2% in 2019 to an average of 25% by 2025. At the heart of the Global Commitment is a vision of a circular economy, where plastics never become waste.

ING has focused our plastics commitment on plastic packaging and helping eliminate plastic waste and pollution, as that’s where we believe we can have the most impact. We aim to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic packaging within our own operations and support our clients in the plastic value chain, including those active in the collection, sorting, and recycling of plastic. We have a cross-business working group to address these areas in an integrated way.

Our own operations

We aim to improve our own operations, creating awareness among employees and working with suppliers to meet new policies. Progress is being made. ING offices in Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and Luxembourg have already taken steps to phase out single-use plastics.

At our head office, we’ve had a segregated waste management stream for plastics for years and we strive to minimise single-use plastic disposables.

Supporting our clients

Our current focus is on producers and users of plastic packaging (such as packaging manufacturers, retailers, as well as food and beverage companies). We aim to engage with targeted clients in these sectors to encourage them to make actionable commitments towards reducing the problem. Some examples of the commitments we expect from these clients include reduction of virgin plastic use, increased recycled content, and the elimination of unnecessary plastic packaging.

While we consider it important that companies showcase such circular plastics commitments, these alone will not be enough to stop plastic pollution. Certain plastics may be recyclable, but if they don’t get recycled, the issue of plastic pollution remains. That’s why we strive to support clients active in plastic waste management and plastic recycling through financing solutions aimed at the waste management industry.

We believe that all parties in the chain of supply and demand should take responsibility to rethink the way we currently produce and use plastics. We finance a lot of sustainable activities, but we still finance more that’s not.

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