Global plastic waste on track to almost triple by 2060, says OECD

Plastic waste beach

The amount of global plastic waste produced is set to almost triple by 2060, a new OECD report says, with around half being disposed of in landfills and under a fifth recycled.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has produced the Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060, which sets out a range of projections on plastics to 2060. The report covers plastics use, waste, and the environmental impacts linked to plastics with a focus on leakage to the environment.

Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060 says that without radical action to curb demand, increase product lifespans and improve waste management and recyclability, plastic pollution will rise alongside an almost threefold increase in plastic use driven by rising populations and incomes.

The report estimates that almost two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 will be from short-lived items such as packaging, low-cost products, and textiles.

Combining policies that target different lifecycle stages can drastically reduce plastic leakage to the environment, the OECD says.

OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said: “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 coordinated action.

“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 global plastics consumption rising from 460 million tonnes (Mt) in 2019 to 1,231Mt in 2060 in the absence of what it calls “bold new policies”, a faster rise than most raw materials.

OECD Global Waste PlasticIt continues that growth will be fastest in developing and emerging countries in Africa and Asia, although OECD countries will still produce much more plastic waste per person (238 kg per year on average) in 2060 than non-OECD countries (77 kg).

The report says that the projected rise in plastics consumption and waste will come despite an expected increase in the use of recycled plastic in manufacturing new goods, as well as technological advances and sectoral economic shifts that should mean an estimated 16% decrease in the amount of plastic required to create USD $1 of economic output by 2060.

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