Only 20 companies behind 50% of all disposable plastic waste, new index report reveals


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Just 20 companies are behind more than half of all single-use plastics that end up as waste in the environment and oceans, a new report has revealed. Made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, beverage brands are often blamed for the deluge of disposable plastics, but researchers are now exposing the small cluster of petrochemical companies – backed by financial firms – as the source of the pollution crisis. plastic.

Only twenty companies are the main source of more than half of single-use plastic pollution in the world, a new Index of plastic waste manufacturers found. The index, published by the Minderoo Foundation in collaboration with experts from the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), examined “the source and true extent” of the plastic pollution crisis , as well as the main banks and financial companies that allow the production of plastic waste.

According to the index, just 100 companies generate up to 90% of the world’s disposable plastic production. By country, Australia and the United States produce the highest amounts of single-use plastic waste per capita pollution at over 50 kilograms per year, while the figure is as low as 4 kilograms per year for India.

Their analysis revealed that the most polluting companies were dominated by petrochemical companies, with ExxonMobil tops the list, contributing 5.9 million tonnes of global plastic waste. American company Dow and Chinese oil and gas giant Sinopec followed closely, despite the common perception that brands such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are most to blame.

Petrochemical companies are described as the “real source” of plastic waste in the report because they manufacture the same polymers or building blocks for plastic production.

ExxonMobil polyethylene production plant. (Image: ExxonMobil)

This is the first time that the financial and material flows of single-use plastic production have been mapped on a global scale and traced back to their source.

Toby Gardner, Principal Investigator, UTE

“Our dependence on oil and gas not only fuels climate change, but as the primary material used in the production of disposable plastics is also devastating our oceans,” explained Sam Fankhauser, professor of climate change economics and policy at the ‘University of Oxford and former director. from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE.

The researchers also identified the group of financial institutions that are financing the crisis, with nearly 60% of trade finance comes from just twenty global banks. Since 2011, a total of $ 30 billion in loans from names like Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America have poured into the plastic production industry.

Twenty asset management companies were also on display, including Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group, who together hold more than US $ 300 billion in shares in parent companies of single-use plastic polymers. Of this amount, the report found that US $ 10 billion can be directly related to the production of disposable disposable plastics.

“This is the first time that the financial and material flows of single-use plastic production have been mapped globally and traced back to their source,” said Toby Gardner, senior researcher at SEI.

The Minderoo Foundation says the report “also exposes the extent of inaction” of this small but powerful group of plastics producers who transport the majority of plastic waste around the world. Over the next five years, it is estimated that global production of disposable plastic will increase by 30%, resulting in the deposit of an additional three trillion items by 2025.

Research has highlighted the role of petrochemical companies and financial institutions in fueling the plastic waste crisis, rather than blaming brands. (Image: Greenpeace)

Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis if governments, businesses and financial leaders do not act in the best interests of our children and grandchildren.

Dr Andrew Forrest, President and Co-Founder, Minderoo Foundation

Last year, a study found that even in the “best-case scenario” where plastic consumption is reduced by 80%, there will still be 710 million tonnes of plastic polluting our planet.

Researchers are now calling on the ‘source’ – petrochemical companies – to reveal their huge plastic waste footprint and make bolder commitments to transition to circular patterns of plastic manufacturing, while banks and investors must end to their support for the production of virgin plastic from fossil fuels. .

“Revealing the scale of the global crisis that we have before us, it is essential that we break the pattern of inaction. You can’t handle what you can’t measure, ”Gardner said. “It’s so important that the small group of companies and banks that dominate the global production of disposable plastics start disclosing their own data.”

“Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis if governments, businesses and financial leaders do not act in the best interests of our children and grandchildren,” added Dr. Andrew Forrest, president and co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation.

“It means: stop making new plastic and start using recycled plastic waste, it means reallocating capital from virgin producers to those who use recycled materials, and most importantly, it means rethinking plastic so that it doesn’t cause any damage. damage and is compostable.

“And we need to act now,” continued Dr. Forrest. “Because while we bicker, the oceans are being destroyed by plastic and the environment is being destroyed by global warming.”


Main image provided by Shutterstock.

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