The global petrochemical industry has been identified as the “source” of single-use plastic pollution in a new analysis.
The analysis released today (May 18) says that 20 companies, backed by a small group of donors, are “responsible” for producing over 50% of the single-use plastic that ends up as waste worldwide.
The “Plastic Waste-Makers Index” published by the Minderoo Foundation was developed with partners such as Wood Mackenzie and experts from the London School of Economics and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
The petrochemical industry has told us it is their own fault and has drawn attention to changing the behavior of the end users of these products rather than addressing the problem at its source – Al Gore
Disposable plastics are largely made from fossil fuels and are the most common type of discarded plastic that too often becomes an environmental pollution. Environmentalists have already blamed packaging brands like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola for plastic waste.
However, the Minderoo Foundation says that a small group of petrochemical companies that make polymers are “the source of the crisis.”
Al Gore, former US Vice President, commented on the analysis: “The search for the causes of the plastic waste crisis enables us to help solve it. The courses of the climate crisis and the plastic waste crisis are strikingly similar and are becoming increasingly intertwined.
“As awareness of plastic pollution increased, the petrochemical industry told us it was their own fault and focused attention on changes in the behavior of the end users of these products rather than addressing the problem at its source.”
The Minderoo Foundation’s analysis shows that 20 companies are “the source” of half of all single-use plastics discarded worldwide.
ExxonMobil tops the list – according to the analysis, the analyzes contribute 5.9 million tons of global plastic waste – closely followed by US chemical company Dow and China’s Sinopec. According to the analysis, 100 companies are behind 90% of the world’s single-use plastic production.
Almost 60% of the commercial funding that finances single-use production comes from j20 global banks. Since 2011, a total of $ 30 billion in loans from these institutions – including Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America – has flowed into the sector.
Twenty asset managers – led by US companies Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Capital Group – hold over $ 300 billion worth of shares in parent companies of single-use plastic polymer manufacturers. Of this, $ 10 billion is directly related to the manufacture of single-use polymers.
“Stop making new plastic”
“The plasticization of our oceans and the warming of our planet are among the greatest threats that humans and nature have ever been exposed to,” said Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Minderoo Foundation.
“Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis unless government, business and financial leaders act in the best interests of our children and grandchildren.
That means: stop making new plastic and start using recycled plastic waste element, it will return to its original molecules, not nano-plastics.
The plasticization of our oceans and the warming of our planet are among the greatest threats to which humans and nature have ever been exposed
“And we have to act now. Because while we argue, the oceans are being devastated with plastic and the environment is being destroyed by global warming. “
The Minderoo Foundation, the authors of the report, calls for petrochemical companies to be required to disclose their “plastic waste footprint” and to commit to the transition from fossil fuels to circular models of plastic production.
It also urges banks and investors to shift capital, investment and funding away from companies that make new fossil fuel-based new plastic production to companies that use recycled plastic raw materials.
The report also looks at what it calls “the extent of inaction” by plastics manufacturers, and how the Minderoo Foundation states that they are “exacerbating the existing crisis of disposable plastic waste.”
According to analysis, global disposable plastic production is expected to increase by 30% over the next five years. It is said that this production growth alone will result in an additional three trillion pieces of plastic waste by 2025 alone.
Recycled plastics or raw materials make up no more than 2% of global single-use plastic production, which means 98% of these plastics are made from fuels.
In a best-practice assessment of the switch to circular-based forms of production, which is required to cope with the crisis, plastics manufacturers come off “poorly”.
It is also said that the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the price of oil down, making single-use plastics based on fossil fuels “even more financially attractive”.
“Our reliance on oil and gas is not only driving climate change, it is also devastating our oceans as the primary material for the production of disposable plastic,” said Sam Fankhauser, 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.
“It is critical that petrochemical companies move to alternatives based on the circular economy if we are to successfully address these interconnected crises. The benefits offered are transformative and of great benefit not only to our environment and ecosystems, but also to the communities living with the reality of plastic pollution. “
It is vital that petrochemical companies move to alternatives based on the circular economy if we are to successfully address these interconnected crises
According to the analysis, more than 130 million tons of single-use plastic ended up in the trash in 2019. According to the Minderoo Foundation, almost all of this is “burned, buried in landfills or disposed of directly in the environment”.
19% of this waste – around 25 million tons – was dumped as pollution, in the oceans or on land (source: Break the plastic shaft).
“This is the first time that the financial and material flows of single-use plastic production are mapped around the world and traced back to their source,” said Toby Gardner, Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute.
“In exposing the sheer scale of the global crisis that we have on our hands, it is critical that we break the pattern of inaction. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Building on the analysis published today, it is therefore so important that the small group of companies and banks that dominate the global production of disposable plastics begin to disclose their own data. “
Waste per person
The analysis also shows which countries have the largest share in the disposable plastic crisis.
Australia and the United States produce the largest amounts of single-use plastic waste per capita with more than 50 kg per person per year, followed by South Korea and Great Britain with more than 40 kg per person.
In comparison, the average person in China – the largest single-use plastic producer by volume – produces 18 kg of single-use plastic waste per year; in India it is only 4 kg per year.
The Plastic Waste-Makers Index is a project of the No Plastic Waste initiative of the Minderoo Foundation, which aims to create a world without plastic pollution – a true circular economy in which fossil fuels are no longer used to make plastic.
Engineering masterpiece [Updated 20 May]
Tim Duret, Director of Sustainable Technology at Veolia UK and Ireland, said plastic ‘is not a material we should shy away from’ and that it is a ‘technical masterpiece as the value that plastic offers in terms of packaging and hygiene is unmatched’.
He said, “What this report clearly highlights is the problem of single-use plastics. We need to change the way we approach these types of materials by working together between industry and manufacturers and by changing consumer behavior towards a circular economy.
Plastic is durable and there are solutions, be it by investing in new recycling techniques or changing products.
“We are actively working with the companies mentioned to develop new value chains and address this issue. Plastic is durable and there are solutions, whether by investing in new recycling techniques or changing products.
“We are part of the UK Plastic Pact, which aims to ban unnecessary plastic, to reduce and improve the design of necessary plastics. The key to this is the plastic packaging tax. By sponsoring the use of recycled material; Ecodesign and investment in infrastructure will be encouraged and we will begin to take advantage of an overarching view from pre-production to treatment as plastics approach. “
See Here Further information on the No Plastic Waste Initiative of the Minderoo Foundation.