The world is producing a record amount of single-use plastic waste, mostly made from polymers created from fossil fuels, despite global efforts to reduce plastic pollution and carbon emissions, according to a new report released on Monday.
The second Plastic Waste Makers Index, compiled by the Western Australia-based philanthropic Minderoo Foundation, found the world generated 139 million metric tonnes of single-use plastic waste in 2021, which was 6 million metric tonnes more than in 2019, when the first index was released, CNN reported.
The report found the additional plastic waste created in those two years equates to nearly one 1 kg more for every person on the planet and was driven by demand for flexible packaging like films and sachets.
In recent years, governments around the world have announced policies to reduce the volume of single-use plastic, banning products like single-use straws, disposable cutlery, food containers, cotton swabs, bags and balloons, CNN reported.
In July, California became the first US state to announce its own targets, including a drop of 25 per cent in the sale of plastic packaging by 2032.
In December, the UK extended its list of banned items to include single-use trays, balloon sticks and some types of polystyrene cups and food containers.
Bans are also in place in the European Union, Australia and India, among other places.
But the report found that recycling isn’t scaling up fast enough to deal with the amount of plastic being produced, meaning that used products are far more likely to be dumped in landfills, on beaches and in rivers and oceans than to make it into recycling plants, CNN reported.
“It demonstrates beyond any doubt that the plastic pollution problem is getting much bigger and is being driven by the polymer producers, which are of course, driven by the oil and gas sector,” said Andrew Forrest, Minderoo founder.
He’s proposing a “polymer premium” on every kilogram of plastic polymer made from fossil fuels to give people, companies and governments a financial incentive to recycle more.
“In the advanced world, that polymer payment will lead to automatic mechanize collection. In the developing world, it’ll lead to people who would not otherwise have any work, having work making sure there’s no plastic waste going into the ocean, there’s no plastic waste on streets, there’s no plastic waste poisoning wildlife,” he said.
Last year, the UN Environment Assembly agreed to create the world’s first-ever global plastic pollution treaty.
An intergovernmental committee is working to a 2024 deadline to draft a legally binding agreement that would address the full lifecycle of plastic, from its production and design to its disposal.