Twenty companies are responsible for producing more than half of all single-use plastic waste in the world, fueling the climate crisis and creating an environmental catastrophe, new research reveals.
Among the global companies responsible for 55% of the world’s plastic packaging waste are state and multinational corporations, including oil and gas giants and chemical companies, according to a comprehensive new analysis.
The Plastic waste manufacturers index unveils for the first time the companies that produce polymers that become disposable plastic items, from masks to plastic bags and bottles, which at the end of their short life pollute the oceans or are burned or dumped in landfills.
ExxonMobil is the world’s largest single-use plastic waste polluter, contributing 5.9 million tonnes to the global waste mountain, concludes analysis from partners such as Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and the Stockholm Environment Institute. The world’s largest chemical company, US-based Dow, generated 5.5 million tons of plastic waste, while the Chinese oil and gas company, Sinopec, created 5.3 million tons.
Eleven of the companies are based in Asia, four in Europe, three in North America, one in Latin America and one in the Middle East. Its plastic production is financed by major banks, including Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.
The huge plastic waste footprint of the world’s top 20 companies amounts to more than half of the 130 million metric tons of single-use plastic discarded in 2019, according to the analysis.
Single-use plastics are made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, driving the climate crisis and, because they are some of the most difficult items to recycle, they end up creating mountains of global waste. Only 10-15% of single-use plastic is recycled globally each year.
The analysis provides an unprecedented insight into the small number of petrochemical companies and their financial backers, which generate nearly all single-use plastic waste worldwide.
Al Gore, the ecologist and former US vice president, said the groundbreaking analysis exposed how fossil fuel companies were rushing to switch to plastic production as two of their main markets, transportation and electricity generation, were they were decarbonizing.
“Since most plastic is made from oil and gas, especially fractured gas, the production and consumption of plastic is becoming a major factor in the climate crisis,” said Gore.
“Additionally, the resulting plastic waste, particularly single-use plastics, is accumulating in landfills, along roads and in rivers that carry large amounts to the ocean.”
The plastic waste crisis grows every year. In the next five years, the global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow by more than 30%.
By 2050, plastic is expected to account for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
“An environmental catastrophe is looming: much of the resulting single-use plastic waste will end up as pollution in developing countries with poor waste management systems,” the report’s authors said. “The projected growth rate in the supply of these virgin polymers … will likely maintain new circular production models and reuse ‘out of the money’ without regulatory stimulus.”
The report said that the plastics industry around the world had been allowed to operate with minimal regulation and limited transparency for decades. “These companies are the source of the single-use plastics crisis: their production of new ‘virgin’ polymers from oil, gas and coal feedstock perpetuates the waste extraction and production dynamics of the US economy. plastics “.
The report said this undermines the shift to a circular economy, including the production of recycled polymers from plastic waste, the reuse of plastic and the use of substitute materials. Only 2% of single-use plastic was made from recycled polymers in 2019.
“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest and most critical threats facing our planet”, saying Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, President of the Minderoo Foundation. “The current outlook is bound to get worse and we simply cannot allow these producers of fossil fuel derived plastics to continue as they have done without control. With our oceans drowning and plastic affecting our health, we need to see strong intervention from producers, governments and the world of finance to break the cycle of inaction. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism