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Huge growth in plastic production predicted

The amount of plastic waste produced globally is set to nearly triple by 2060, according to a new OECD report which expects half to end up in landfill with less than a fifth recycled.

The report projects global plastics consumption rising from 460 million tonnes in 2019 to 1 231 million tonnes in 2060, with the fastest growth in developing and emerging countries in Africa and Asia. Plastic leakage to the environment globally is expected to double to 44 million tonnes a year and plastic waste will balloon from 353 million tonnes in 2019 to 1 014 million tonnes in 2060.

Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060 estimates that almost two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 will be from short-lived items such as packaging, low-cost products and textiles.

‘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,’ OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann says. ‘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 OECD also looks at how actions to reduce greenhouse emissions could reduce plastic pollution and argues that policies to encourage a more circular use of them should include:

  • Taxes on plastics, including on plastic packaging 
  • Incentives to reuse and repair plastic items
  • Targets for recycled content in new plastic products
  • Extended producer responsibility schemes
  • Improved waste management infrastructure
  • Increased litter collection rates

The share of plastic waste that is successfully recycled is projected to rise to 17% in 2060 from 9% in 2019, while incineration and landfilling will continue to account for around 20% and 50% of plastic waste respectively. The share of plastic that evades waste management systems – ending up instead in uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaking into the soil or aquatic environments – is projected to fall to 15% from 22%.

This new report follows the OECD’s first Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options, released in February 2022. UN member states have since pledged to negotiate a legally binding international agreement by 2024 to end plastic pollution.

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