Reducing pollution from plastics will require international cooperation to reduce plastic production, improve waste management and increase recycling says the report
Posted By : Deepak Naik | Date : Mar 2 2022 4:44 AM
OECD: Recycling insufficient to meet growth in plastic waste
According to the Global Plastics Outlook report produced by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), rising global populations and incomes are driving a “relentless” increase in the amount of plastic being used and thrown away, while the global recycling rate is only 9 percent and policies designed to curb its leakage into the environment are proving ineffective.
The report was issued on Feb. 22 in advance of United Nations talks on international action to reduce plastic waste.
According to the report, almost half of all plastic waste is generated in OECD countries, with the U.S. generating 221 kilograms (487 pounds) per person per year, while European OECD countries generate 114 kilograms (251 pounds) and Japan and Korea generated 69 kilograms (152 pounds), on average. Most plastic pollution comes from inadequate collection and disposal of larger plastic debris known as macroplastics, but the leakage of microplastics (synthetic polymers smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter also are concerning.
OECD countries are behind 14 percent of overall plastic leakage, the report notes, accounting for 11% of macroplastics leakage and 35% of microplastics leakage.
The report says reducing pollution from plastics will require international cooperation to reduce plastic production and to improve waste management and increase recycling.
Bans and taxes on single-use plastics are in place in more than 120 countries but are not doing enough to reduce overall pollution, according to the report. Most regulations are limited to items like plastic bags, which make up a tiny share of plastic waste and are more effective at reducing littering than curbing plastics consumption. Landfill and incineration taxes that incentivize recycling only exist in a minority of countries. The report calls for increased use of policy instruments, such as extended producer responsibility programs for packaging and durables, landfill taxes, deposit-refund and pay-as-you-throw systems.
While global production of recycled-content plastics more than quadrupled from 6.8 million metric tons in 2000 to 29.1 million metric tons in 2019, it still accounts for only 6 percent of total plastics production, the report notes, adding that more must be done to create a separate and well-functioning market for recycled plastics. Setting recycled content targets and investing in improved recycling technologies could help to make secondary markets more competitive and profitable, according to the report’s authors.
While 15 percent of plastic is collected for recycling, 40 percent of that is disposed of as residues, the report says, leading to the 9% recycling rate. Another 19 percent is incinerated, 50 percent is landfilled and 22 percent evades waste management systems and ends up at uncontrolled dumpsites, is burned in open pits or ends up in terrestrial or aquatic environments, especially in poorer countries, the report notes.
Citing global value chains and trade in plastics, the report suggests that aligning design approaches and regulation of chemicals will be key to improving the circularity of plastics.
Global plastic waste generation more than doubled from 2000 to 2019 to 353 million metric tons, according to the report. Nearly two-thirds of this material comes from plastics with lifetimes of less than five years, while 40 percent comes from packaging, 12% from consumer goods and 11% from clothing and textiles.
The full Global Plastics Outlook is available for download here.