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Global Plastic Waste Set to Triple by 2060, OECD Says (1)

June 3, 2022, 2:10 PMUpdated: June 3, 2022, 8:58 PM

Global plastic waste production is projected to triple by 2060 due to economic and population growth, the OECD reported Friday.

The global community is far from achieving its long-term objective of ending plastic pollution unless significantly strict and coordinated policies are implemented rapidly, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its report, “Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060.” The absence of new policies in the coming decades can result in global plastics consumption rising from 460 million metric tons in 2019 to 1.2 billion metric tons in 2060.

The growth will be fastest in developing and emerging countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

“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,” Mathias Cormann, OECD secretary-general, said in a statement. “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.”

The report projects that half of the waste generated will end up in landfills and less than a fifth will be recycled. Almost two-thirds of the generated waste will come from short-lived plastic items such as packaging, low-cost products and textiles.

Despite the expected increase in use of recycled plastic in manufacturing new goods, plastics consumption and waste will still occur, according to the OECD.

The report recommended policies to reduce environmental impacts of plastics such as applying taxes on plastics, offering incentives to rescue and repair plastic items, and extended producer responsibility schemes.

“This report is consistent with other assessments and is alarming. The production, use and disposal of plastic is already having an enormous negative environmental, economic and health impact,” said Judith Enck, a former US Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator who is president of Beyond Plastics, a group that advocates for the end of single-use plastic. Plastic recycling “has been an abysmal failure,” and policy makers must “adopt new laws and regulations that require the reduction in the use of plastic,” she said.

The OECD built the report on an earlier one, “Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options,” which found that plastic waste has doubled in the last two decades. Since the release of that report in February, United Nation member states pledged to negotiate a legally binding international agreement by 2024 to end plastic pollution.

(Adds comment from president of advocacy group Beyond Plastics.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Nyah Phengsitthy at nphengsitthy@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergindustry.com