Global plastic waste to almost triple by 2060 – OECD

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The amount of plastic waste produced globally is forecast to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than one-fifth recycled, a new OECD report predicts.

‘Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060’, a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says radical action to curb demand, increase product lifespans and improve waste management and recyclability, are essential to avert this boom in waste.

Without action, global plastic consumption will rise from 460 million tonnes in 2019, to 1231 million tonnes in 2060 – a faster rise than most raw materials.

Almost two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 will be from short-lived items such as packaging, low-cost products and textiles, the report estimates.

Recommendations from the report include global policies to reduce the environmental impacts of plastics, such as:

  • taxes on plastics, including packaging
  • incentives to reuse and repair
  • targets for recycled content in new products
  • extended producer responsibility schemes
  • improved waste management infrastructure, and
  • increased litter collection rates.

At the current trajectory, growth of plastic use will be fastest in developing and emerging countries, although OECD countries will still produce much more plastic waste per person (a whopping 238 kilograms per year on average) than non-OECD countries (77 kilograms).

Increases are expected in the use of recycled plastics to manufacture new goods and the share of plastic waste that is successfully recycled, but the forecasts are still alarming.

Along with the forecast trajectory, OECD looks at two potential scenarios. First is a “regional action scenario comprising a mix of fiscal and regulatory policies primarily in OECD countries”. This model could decrease plastic waste by almost a fifth and more than halve plastic leakage into the environment without a substantial impact on global GDP.

The second is “a global action scenario comprising more stringent policies implemented worldwide”. This one could decrease plastic by a third and almost completely eliminate plastic leakage to the environment while lowering global GDP by an estimated 0.8 percent.

In February 2022, OECD released a predecessor report, ‘Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options’, which found that plastic waste has doubled in two decades. Since then, UN member states have pledged to negotiate a legally binding international agreement by 2024 to end plastic pollution, says the OECD announcement page.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash.

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