World is creating more single-use plastic waste than ever, report says

Brisbane, Australia

The world is producing a record amount of single-use plastic waste, mostly made from polymers created from fossil fuels, despite global efforts to reduce plastic pollution and carbon emissions, according to a new report released on Monday.

The second Plastic Waste Makers Index, compiled by the philanthropic Minderoo Foundation, found that the world generated 139 million metric tons of single-use plastic waste in 2021, up 6 million metric tons from 2019, when the first index was published.

The report found that the additional plastic waste created in those two years was equivalent to nearly a kilogram (2.2 pounds) more for every person on the planet and was driven by demand for flexible packaging like film. and the bags.

In recent years, governments around the world have announced policies to reduce the volume of single-use plastic, banning products such as single-use straws, disposable cutlery, food containers, cotton swabs, bags and balloons.

In July, California became the first US state to announce its own targets, including a 25% drop in the sale of plastic packaging by 2032. In December, the UK expanded its list of items prohibited to include single-use trays, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. Bans are also in place in the European Union, Australia and India, among others.

But the report found recycling is not growing fast enough to keep up with the amount of plastic being produced, meaning used products are far more likely to end up in landfills, on beaches, in rivers and the oceans than to be recycled. plants.

The index named just two companies in the petrochemical industry that recycle and produce recycled polymers on a large scale: Taiwanese conglomerate Far Eastern New Century and Thailand’s Indorama Ventures, the world’s largest producer of recycled PET for bottles. drinks.

Indorama Ventures is also number four on a list of the world’s top 20 producers of virgin polymers used in single-use plastic. The list is led by US oil giant Exxon (XOM)Mobil, China’s Sinopec (SHI) and another US heavyweight, Dow, in that order, according to the report.

And by making polymers for single-use plastic, these 20 companies generated around 450 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – around the same amount of total emissions as the UK, according to Carbon Trust. and Wood Mackenzie, who analyzed the data. Last June, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said UK greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by 13% to just over 478 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. (Mt Co2e) by 2020.

“This demonstrates without a doubt that the problem of plastic pollution is getting worse and is being driven by polymer producers, which is of course being driven by the oil and gas sector,” said Andrew Forrest, founder of Minderoo and chief executive of iron-ore. the giant Fortescue Metals.

Building reflected in the waters of a garbage-filled river in Manila on January 23, 2016.

It proposes a “polymer bounty” on every kilogram of plastic polymer made from fossil fuels to give people, businesses and governments a financial incentive to recycle more.

“In the advanced world, this polymer payment will lead to automatic mechanized collection. In the developing world, this will lead to people who otherwise would not have jobs, having jobs to make sure there is no plastic waste in the ocean, that there is no plastic waste on the streets, that there is no plastic waste poisoning wildlife,” he said.

Last year, the United Nations Environment Assembly, the world’s highest environmental decision-making body, agreed to create the first-ever global treaty on plastic pollution.

An intergovernmental committee is working towards the 2024 deadline to draft a legally binding agreement that would address the full life cycle of plastic, from its production and design to its disposal.


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