Disasters & Accidents

Global plastic consumption has quadrupled in 3 decades, says OECD

Paris, Feb 22 (EFE).- Plastic consumption has quadrupled over the past three decades while its production has doubled from 2000 to 2019 to reach 460 million tonnes, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday.

The OECD warned that plastics account for 3.4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions since the bulk of its waste ends up in landfills, incinerated, or leaking into the environment.

In its first outlook study on plastic, the organization called for “greater use of instruments” like extended producer responsibility schemes for packaging and durables, landfill taxes, deposit-refund, and Pay-as-You-Throw systems.

The OECD report said that global plastic waste generation reached 353 million tonnes from 2000 to 2019.

“Nearly two-thirds of plastic waste comes from plastics with lifetimes of under five years, with 40 percent coming from packaging, 12 percent from consumer goods, and 11 percent from clothing and textiles,” the report said.

The report says only nine percent of plastic waste was recycled, even as 15 percent goes for recycling.

“But 40 percent of that is disposed of as residues. Another 19 percent is incinerated, 50 percent ends up in landfill and 22 percent evades waste management systems and goes into uncontrolled dumpsites, is burned in open pits or ends up in terrestrial or aquatic environments, especially in poorer countries.”

In 2019, 6.1 million tonnes of plastic waste leaked into aquatic environments, and 1.7 million tonnes flowed into oceans, said the report.

“There is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in seas and oceans, and a further 109 million tonnes has accumulated in rivers. The build-up of plastics in rivers implies that leakage into the ocean will continue for decades to come, even if mismanaged plastic waste could be significantly reduced.”

The report noted that almost half of all plastic waste is generated in OECD countries even as the waste generated annually per person varies from 221 kg in the United States and 114 kg in European OECD countries to 69 kg, on average, for Japan and South Korea.

Most plastic pollution comes from inadequate collection and disposal of larger plastic debris known as macro-plastics.

But the leakage of microplastics (synthetic polymers smaller than 5 mm in diameter) from things like industrial plastic pellets, synthetic textiles, road markings, and tire wear is also a serious concern.

The OECD said more needed to be done to create a separate and well-functioning market for recycled plastics, still viewed as substitutes for virgin plastic.

Setting recycled content targets and investing in improved recycling technologies could help to make secondary markets more competitive and profitable, it said.

The report, published on the eve of the UN talks to reduce plastic waste, found that the Covid-19 crisis has led to a 2.2 percent decrease in plastic use in 2020 as economic activity slowed.

But it noted a rise in littering, food takeaway packaging, and plastic medical equipment like masks had driven up littering.

“As economic activity resumed in 2021, plastics consumption has also rebounded,” it said. EFE


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