The plastic problem has an origin and this is focused on a handful of those responsible. According to the Plastic Waste Makers Index, 20 companies are the ones that produce more than half of the single-use plastic items discarded globally.
The study names companies that are at the forefront of the plastic supply chain and make polymers. He also noted that they are supported by a small number of financial sponsors.
Single-use plastics, such as bottles, bags, and food containers, are the most commonly discarded type of plastic. They are made almost exclusively from fossil fuels and often end their short life cycle by polluting the oceans, burning or being dumped in landfills.
Top companies producers of single-use plastic
1. ExxonMobil – 5.9%
2. Dow – 5.6%
3. Sinopec – 5.3%
4. Indorama Ventures – 4.6%
5. Saudi Aramco – 4.3%
6. PetroChina – 4%
7. LyondellBasell – 3.9%
8. Reliance Industries – 3.1%
9. Braskem – 3%
10. Alpek SA de CV – 2.3%
11. Borealis – 2.2%
12. Lotte Chemical – 2.1%
13. Ineos – 2%
14. Total – 1.9%
15. Jiangsu Hailun Petrochemical – 1.6%
16. Far Eastern New Century – 1.6%
17. Formosa Plastics Corporation – 1.6%
18. China Energy Investment Group – 1.5%
19. PTT – 1.5%
20. China Resources – 1.3%
Global Plastic production in millions of metric tonnes
Global production and consumption of plastics has increased dramatically since the 1950s. If the same path continues, the production of single-use plastics will triple by 2050, the study says.
It also collects testimonies about the damage these companies have caused in communities in the United States, Europe and Asia. The production of plastic has been linked to health problems such as cancer or asthma, impacting “disproportionately” the inhabitants of those regions.
The amount of plastic produced in the world each year has exploded in just one human lifetime. From 2 million tons in 1950 to 368 million tons in 2019¹. These are the figures for the plastics industry itself, but they do not include synthetic fibres, so the actual production is much higher.
More than half of the total amount of plastic produced was only released on the market after 2000. The expectation is that production will increase further to around 600 million tons in 2025². This is about twice the total weight of the current world population!
Who is producing all this plastic?
The average European throws away 174 kilos of packaging waste every year, of which 19% is plastic. So, on average, each person in Europe adds 33 kilos of plastic packaging to the mountain of plastic waste every year.
These figures are often much higher in other regions of the world. According to 2016 research, Americans are the biggest plastic polluters.
The largest exporters of plastics
According to the study, the United States, the European Union (EU), Saudi Arabia and South Korea are the largest exporters of primary forms of plastic.
China is the leading exporter of intermediate and final manufactured products, including synthetic textiles and empty plastic containers. It is also the main importer of primary plastics.
The EU, and in particular Germany, and the United States, occupy a prominent place as importers and exporters in the entire life cycle of plastics.
“Other countries are leading global players only in certain parts of the plastics life cycle and in specific sectors,” said Julien Christen, a research associate at the Graduate Institute and co-author of the study.
For example, Indonesia is among the top 20 exporters by volume of intermediate manufactured plastics, synthetic textiles and additives that can be used in the production of plastics.
Vietnam is listed among the top five exporters of empty plastic containers and in the list of top ten exporters of final manufactured products. It is also among the top five exporters of synthetic textiles by volume.
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