Forum Institutional

A robust and standardized framework for reuse measurement is needed. Here’s why

Reuse measurement and reporting remains a barrier to scale reuse models of consumption, and recycling alone is not enough to solve the plastic waste crisis.

Reuse measurement and reporting remains a barrier to scale reuse models of consumption, and recycling alone is not enough to solve the plastic waste crisis. Image: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY) - Tags: SOCIETY FOOD ENVIRONMENT)

Thom Almeida
Lead, Circular Economic Systems, World Economic Forum
Afonso de Brito Canelas
Project Fellow, Consumers Beyond Waste, World Economic Forum
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  • There is currently no set of standardized and tested metrics for organizations to track progress on reuse.
  • Reuse measurement and reporting remains a barrier to scale reuse models of consumption.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Consumers Beyond Waste community of leading public and private sector actors has recommended two reuse metrics to pilot in 2023.

We can no longer rely on recycling alone to solve the plastic waste crisis. A systemic shift away from single-use towards reuse models of consumption is an integral part of the reduce-reuse-recycle agenda.

Only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with an effective recycling rate of approximately 2% globally. Reusable packaging, designed to be used several times, is necessary to reduce total virgin material consumption, emissions and waste generation by keeping resources in circulation.

Measurement and reporting is a significant barrier to scaling reuse models of consumption. There are currently no standardized and tested metrics to track progress on reuse, which is critical for companies to fully understand the economic, consumer and environmental benefits of reusable business models. Organizations still tend to operate in siloes, using different reuse metrics and calculation methodologies. Standardization of reuse metrics across industry, government and standard-setting institutions will accelerate the systemic shift toward reuse models.

Reuse measurement: why, and why now?

A standardized framework for reuse measurement is particularly important now, amid growing momentum from the private and public sectors on circularity. For example, Coca-Cola announced an industry-leading reuse target earlier this year, and other global companies are expected to announce their own reuse commitments soon. In parallel, the European Union has been revising, and will release an updated version, of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) this November, including recommendations on reuse targets, measurement and reporting.

The World Economic Forum’s Consumers Beyond Waste (CBW) initiative aims to define robust and standardized reuse metrics that support companies in their transition to circular business models. As a multistakeholder initiative hosted by the Forum’s Future of Consumption Platform, in collaboration with Kearney, it has convened a coalition of leading private and public stakeholders across the value chain, comprising Amcor, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Walmart, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This core community has been building a comprehensive measurement and reporting framework for businesses to track progress towards reusable models of consumption, focused on primary plastic packaging — such as consumer-facing plastic packaging — in the consumer goods and retail sector.

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Two reuse metrics, to be tested and iterated via piloting in 2023

Over the last six months, the coalition has prioritized two reuse metrics: % of portfolio reuse and share of volume or product units. % of portfolio reuse measures reuse by efficiency, focusing on the total number of loops a packaging unit achieves over the course of its lifetime. Share of volume or product units measures reuse by volume of litres of beverage, kilos of food or kilos of personal care/home care products designed or developed to be reused – e.g., volume that is reusable.

Consumer goods and retail, corporate stakeholders of this coalition have preliminarily committed to pilot one or both of the prioritized reuse metrics across a subset of product categories and markets during 2023. In parallel, the coalition’s NGOs have committed to engaging with corporate stakeholders to provide feedback on the piloting process, outcomes, and next steps. This piloting period is an opportunity for the coalition to work together to share lessons learned and challenges encountered and to test and iterate metrics as needed (e.g., defining sector-specific measurement considerations). It does not represent a final recommendation or binding commitment to track the two reuse metrics in the future.

“We believe scaling and measuring reuse requires strong collaboration across the value chain. Any proposed solution or recommendation must incorporate the views of, and consider the impact to, both consumer goods and retail players. Working with leading consumer goods companies as part of this coalition was a key factor in enabling us to prioritize these metrics.”

Anastasia Smolina, Director, Sustainability — Circular Economy Strategy, Walmart

Moving towards robust and standardized reuse measurement

The Consumers Beyond Waste initiative and its coalition are aligned on a path forward composed of three phases over the next two years.

In phase one, the coalition will collectively define pilot detail (e.g., structure, reporting requirements, capabilities and tools, and collaboration models) during H2 2022. This detail will serve as strategic input for corporate stakeholders to pilot prioritized reuse metrics in 2023.

Phase two will see the coalition’s consumer goods and retail stakeholders pilot one or both prioritized metrics across a subset of product categories and markets in 2023, to test and iterate before rolling out the approach more broadly. Consumers Beyond Waste and the wider coalition will provide input and support to consumer goods and retail stakeholders during this phase.

In phase three, assuming positive pilot results, the coalition will engage in further discussions to decide whether to formally recommend prioritized reuse metrics to inform government policies, regulations and standards.

"Scaling up reuse models requires the entire value chain working as one: that is why we welcome the World Economic Forum’s initiative to strengthen and standardize reuse measurements. Harmonizing how we measure progress will improve accountability, and as a result, help accelerate the shift towards reusable formats."

Jolanda de Rooij, Senior Sustainability Manager - Circular Economy, Unilever

For further reading on this topic, please access this high-level briefing paper here. If you are a consumer goods or retail company wishing to join the coalition and pilot prioritized reuse metrics in 2023, please get in touch with the Consumers Beyond Waste initiative team here.

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