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Progress towards a Circular Economy: UK is Named as the Fourth Highest Private Investor in Plastic Circularity in the World

Standing out as a significant player in the global efforts to enhance plastic circularity, the UK has ranked as the fourth highest private capital investor in the sector between 2018 and 2023. During this period, the country invested £14.7 billion in initiatives aimed at improving plastic waste management, according to data from The Circulate Initiative. This non-profit organisation focuses on addressing ocean plastic pollution.

Recently, The Circulate Initiative released a series of country-specific factsheets detailing the investments made to combat plastic pollution across 50 countries. These publications followed the fourth session of the International Negotiating Committee, which discussed the Global Plastic Treaty.


The United States leads in private capital investments for plastics circularity, with £51.7 billion committed, followed by France and Canada. The UK’s leading private investor in plastic circularity is Viridor, which contributed £3.9 billion in 2020 alone. Overall, the UK has allocated £58.9 billion towards waste and plastic waste management from 2018 to 2021.

In 2023, the UK’s Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system generated around £600 million in revenue from reprocessors and exporters. Of this, £100 million was directed towards enhancing infrastructure and capacity, while an additional £40 million was retained for future investment. This market-based mechanism incentivises recycling by requiring obligated packaging producers to obtain PRNs corresponding to the amount of packaging they place on the market. This system not only facilitates increased recycling rates, but it also supports investment in improved waste management practices, technological advancements and in turn, the transition towards a circular economy.

The PRN system plays a crucial role in enhancing resource efficiency. By mandating that companies take responsibility for their packaging waste, it drives investment in recycling infrastructure and innovation. This not only helps in reducing plastic waste but also promotes the sustainable use of resources, aligning with broader environmental goals. Through such initiatives, the UK is making significant strides in tackling plastic pollution and moving towards a more sustainable future.

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