Global plastic use and waste on track to triple by 2060

A world severely blighted by plastic pollution is on track to see the use of plastics nearly triple in less than four decades, according to findings released on Friday.

Even with aggressive action to cut demand and improve efficiencies, plastic production would almost double in less than 40 years, the 38-nation body projects in a report.

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There is increasing international alarm over the volume and omnipresence of plastics pollution, and its impact.

“Plastic pollution is one of the great environmental challenges of the 21st century, causing wide-ranging damage to ecosystems and human health,” OECD chief Mathias Cormann said.

The amount of plastic waste has also nearly doubled, exceeding 350 million tons, with less than 10% of it recycled.

Plastics and CO2

The new report contrasts a business-as-usual trajectory with the benefits of more ambitious global policies of reduced plastic use and pollution.

Where policies can make a huge difference is in the handling of waste.

Currently, nearly 100 million tons of plastic waste is either mismanaged or allowed to leak into the environment, a figure set to double by 2060.

“Co-ordinated and ambitious global efforts can almost eliminate plastic pollution by 2060,” the report concludes.

It could also curtail the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases projected to seep into the atmosphere.

Currently, the full life-cycle of primary plastics — from production to disintegration — contributes about two billion tons of CO2 or its equivalent in other gases, roughly 3% of human-caused carbon pollution.

Without targeted policy action, that figure will likely double by 2060, the OECD warns.

Earlier this year, the United Nations set in motion a process to develop an internationally binding treaty to limit plastic pollution.

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