The linear economy for plastic packaging, which currently leads to excessive carbon dioxide emissions and leakage into the environment, needs to be reformed to a greener circular model which is resource efficient and environmentally benign. This requires a system-wide redesigning of rules and incentives that apply to the plastics value chain, from product design to recycling and end-of-life options. This article identifies areas where green chemistry can contribute. Substituting plastics derived from fossil resources, with bio-based alternatives from renewable resources can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, produce plastics that are easier to recycle to the virgin polymer and, at the end of their useful life, biodegrade in the environment. The underpinning chemo- and biocatalytic technologies for the production and recycling of plastics are reviewed and priorities suggested for future development.