As UN World Oceans Day (June 8) celebrates the notion of a healthier ocean and highlights action required to make a positive impact, the latest stats highlight that global plastic waste will triple in lakes, rivers and oceans by 2060.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has produced a report called ‘Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060’, which has revealed half of the plastic waste will be destined for landfill and less than a fifth will be recycled.
As plastic waste is expected to expand from 353 million tonnes (mt) in 2019 to 1,014mt in 2060, the report estimates that almost two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 will come from packaging, low-cost products and textiles. It calls for progressive action, such as increasing product lifespans and improving recyclability and waste management, to curb demand and prevent plastic pollution rapidly rising.
According to the data, the build-up of plastics in lakes, rivers and oceans will more than triple, with most plastic pollution concerns arising from macroplastics (larger plastics). However, microplastics (which are less than 5mm in diameter and come from a variety of sources including industrial processes, cosmetics, clothing and food packaging) also play havoc in our waterways.
The report, which will be published in full later this year, has forecast that global plastics consumption will increase from 460mt in 2019 to 1,231mt in 2060 (faster than raw materials) without robust new policies in place which should include taxes on plastic, incentives to reuse and repair items, improved waste management infrastructure and extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes.
Africa and Asia will see the fastest growth although OECD countries will continue to produce more plastic waste per capita in 2060 than non-OECD countries.
The new report follows the OECD’s first report ‘Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options’ released earlier this year, which noted plastic waste has doubled in two decades with most of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or polluting the environment. As a result, UN member states have pledged to negotiate a legally binding international agreement by 2024 to end plastic pollution.
Recycled plastic waste is expected to rise from nine percent in 2019 to 17 percent in 2060, while incineration of plastic waste and landfilling will account for around 20 percent and 50 percent respectively.
The new report looks at two potential scenarios and assesses the impact. The first is a regional action scenario, comprising a mix of fiscal and regulatory policies predominantly in OECD countries where plastic waste could be decreased by almost a fifth and more than halve plastic leakage into the environment without substantially impacting on global GDP (which would be 0.3 percent lower by 2060). The other is a global action scenario comprising more stringent policies implemented worldwide which could decrease plastic waste by a third and almost eliminate plastic leakage while lowering global GDP by an estimated 0.8 percent.
Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary-General, said: “If we want a world that is free of plastic pollution, in line with the ambitions of the United Nations Environment Assembly, we will need to take much more stringent and globally co-ordinated action.
“This report proposes concrete policies that can be implemented along the lifecycle of plastics that could significantly curb – and even eliminate – plastic leakage into the environment.”
Isabel Vose, Senior Consultant - Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (North America) at Acre, said: “The rate that plastic waste is forecast to increase in bodies of water globally is incredibly alarming. On top of any legislation passed to help decrease these numbers, companies should assess their products and manufacturing processes to see where they can innovate to be more sustainable.
“Companies need to be doing more at the beginning and end of products’ lifecycles to ensure that they are filling up recycling centers not waterways, it's their planet too.”
Isabel has met and advised many business owners and leaders in the Manufacturing space over the past 3 years. She is a member of the New Jersey Packaging Executives club that focuses on supporting packaging companies to grow their businesses through recruitment and driving sustainability.
She can provide advisement on candidate engagement, recruitment processes, salary and market trends, and solutions on scaling organizations both in the United States and Globally.