‘The plastification of our oceans and the warming of our planet are amongst the greatest threats humanity and nature have ever confronted. Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis unless government, business and financial leaders act in our children’s and grandchildren’s interests.
‘This means: stop making new plastic and start using recycled plastic waste, it means re-allocate capital from virgin producers to those using recycled materials, and importantly, it means redesign plastic so it does no harm and is compostable, so like every other element, it returns to its original molecules, not nano-plastics. And we must act now. Because while we bicker, the oceans are getting trashed with plastic and the environment is getting destroyed by global warming.’
DR ANDREW FORREST AO
Chairman and co-founder, Minderoo Foundation
A growing plastics crisis
The report also lays bare the scale of inaction by plastic producers and how they are compounding the existing throwaway plastic waste crisis.
A 30% increase in global throwaway plastic production is projected over the next five years.
This growth in production will lead to an extra three trillion items of throwaway plastic waste by 2025 alone.
Recycled plastic or feedstocks account for no more than 2% of global single-use plastic production, meaning 98% of these plastics are produced from fossil fuels.
Plastic producers score woefully in a best practice assessment of the move to circular based forms of production necessary in addressing the crisis.
The global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed down the price of oil, making fossil fuel based single-use plastics even more financially attractive.
‘Our reliance on oil and gas is not only fuelling climate change, but as the primary material used in the production of throwaway plastics also devastating our oceans.
‘It is critically important petrochemical companies move towards circular economy-based alternatives if we are going to successfully tackle these interlinked crises. The benefits on offer are transformative and hugely beneficial not only for our environment and ecosystems, but also the communities living with the realities of plastic pollution.’
Professor of Climate Change Economics and Policy at the Smith School, University of Oxford and former director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics
Throwaway plastics by country
More than 130 million metric tonnes of single-use plastic ended-up as waste in 2019 – almost all of which is burned, buried in landfill or discarded directly into the environment.
19% of this waste – some 25 million metric tonnes – became pollution, dumped in oceans or on land. This is equivalent to the weight of over 23,000 blue whales.
The analysis shows which countries are the biggest contributors to the throwaway plastics crisis.
Australia and the United States respectively produce the greatest amounts of single-use plastic waste per head of population, at more than 50kg per person per year.
In comparison, the average person in China – the largest producer of single-use plastic by volume – produces 18kg of single-use plastic waste per year; in India that figure is as low as 4kg per year.
‘This is the first time the financial and material flows of single-use plastic production have been mapped globally and traced back to their source. Revealing the sheer scale of the global crisis we have on our hands, it’s critical we break the pattern of inaction. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
‘Building on the analysis published today, this is why it is so important the small group of companies and banks that dominate global production of throwaway plastics begin to disclose their own data.’
Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute
The Plastic Waste-Makers Index is a project of Minderoo Foundation’s No Plastic Waste initiative, which aims to create a world without plastic pollution – a truly circular plastics economy, where fossil fuels are no longer used to produce plastics.