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Kimberly-Clark used 2.5% recycled plastic in packaging in 2020, up from 1.9% the previous year. | DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock

A group of brand owners that includes McDonald’s, Kimberly-Clark and others increased their use of recycled plastic over the past couple of years, but they’re still not on pace to hit their goals, according to a report.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) latest progress report for companies participating in the “ReSource: Plastic” project, the principal project members increased their aggregate percentage of recycled content from 7.8% in 2018 to 9.6% in 2020. The change comes out to an increase of 124,000 metric tons, or 273 million pounds.

“This is encouraging progress, but it also underscores the continued difficulty in sourcing recycled content, as even with this increase, all Members are still far from reaching their sustainable input goals,” the report notes. “System-wide progress on this issue has been slow despite concentrated efforts on specific materials and in key markets. Collective action and investment in recycling systems remain critical to reaching these goals, as does addressing the incentive structure that keeps fossil virgin plastic inexpensive and easier to source.”

The principal members of the ReSource: Plastic project are Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Starbucks and The Coca-Cola Co. New members of the project are Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive and Kimberly-Clark.

The project looks at members’ elimination of unnecessary plastic, recycling rates, use of post-consumer resin and more. Baseline plastic footprint data for the companies was published last year. That report found the companies used 8% post-consumer resin (PCR) in their packaging.

The following are the PCR usage numbers for the ReSource: Plastic participants compared to their 2019 baseline data (in order of most recycled content to least):

The Coca-Cola Co.: 10.9% recycled content, up from 8.9%.

Colgate-Palmolive: 10.5% recycled content (no 2019 number available)

P&G: 9.7% recycled plastic, up from 7.4%.

Starbucks: 5.6% recycled content, flat year over year.

Amcor: 4.5% recycled content in 2020 (no 2019 number available)

Kimberly-Clark: 2.5% recycled content, up from 1.9%

Keurig Dr Pepper: 2% recycled content in 2020, up from 0.4%

McDonald’s: 0.6% recycled content, down from 1.2%

Some of the above companies also report their plastic usage data as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment. They include Amcor, Colgate-Palmolive, Keurig Dr Pepper, P&G, Starbucks, and The Coca-Cola Co. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation published those numbers in November.

The two ReSource: Plastic members not participating in the Global Commitment are McDonald’s and Kimberly-Clark.

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