The Plastic Makers Index
Report reveals world's record high in single-use plastic waste due to demand for flexible packaging, despite global efforts. Calls for "polymer premium" to incentivize recycling.
A new report shows that the world is producing an unprecedented amount of single-use plastic waste, largely composed of polymers from fossil fuels, despite efforts to decrease plastic pollution and carbon emissions. The study, released by the philanthropic Minderoo Foundation, reveals that in 2021, the world generated 139 million metric tons of single-use plastic waste, a 6 million metric ton increase from the previous report two years prior. The additional waste produced equates to approximately 1 kilogram more per person on the planet, driven by the demand for flexible packaging such as films and sachets.
Governments globally have taken steps to reduce single-use plastic, banning items like single-use straws, disposable cutlery, and food containers. However, the report highlights that recycling is not happening quickly enough to handle the amount of plastic being produced, resulting in more plastic waste being dumped in the environment rather than being recycled.
The report recognizes over 100 companies in the petrochemical industry that are producing recycled polymers at scale. Some of these companies generated around 450 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the production of polymers used in single-use plastic, equivalent to the emissions of a major developed country.
In response, the report suggests a "polymer premium" on every kilogram of plastic polymer made from fossil fuels to incentivize recycling, alongside dozens of other market ready, scalable and actionable recommendations for industry, government, the public domain and civil society/donors. The proposal aims to lead to the automatic collection in developed countries and employment opportunities in the developing world to ensure that plastic waste doesn't harm the environment or wildlife.
The Minderoo Foundations' work is well timed as well. The United Nations Environment Assembly recently agreed to create the world's first global plastic pollution treaty, with a deadline of 2024 to draft a legally binding agreement covering the entire lifecycle of plastic. Data from the Plastic Makers Index, will surely help.