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% goes straight to 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. That’s why the European Parliament adopted new rules on single-use plastics in March 2019, to reduce marine litter.
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 2% now 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 as well as to support our clients in the packaging and recycling parts of the plastics value chain. 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.
We’ve had a segregated stream for plastics in our headquarters’ waste management for years and in our new global headquarters, the catering and drinks suppliers won’t use single-use plastic disposables and condiments. We will expand this to other local headquarters in the Netherlands in 2020. We will also replace plastic bottles at our branches in the Netherlands with a more sustainable version, at the latest in 2020.
Supporting our clients
At the same time, we engage with clients to finance and facilitate their plastic solutions and innovations, stimulating circularity and encouraging them to invest in research and development.
We focus on the part of the plastics value chain that has the most impact on the plastic waste problem: packaging (both product manufacturers and users, such as retailers, food and agriculture) and recycling/waste management (reducing plastic leakage into natural systems and other negative spill overs). 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.