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Plastic waste: Here’s what it could look like by 2060

Plastic waste: Here's what it could look like by 2060

(OECD), by 2060 the amount of plastic waste generated worldwide will triple; about half will go to landfill and less than a fifth will be recycled.

In Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060, a paper to be released in full by the end of the year, it is argued that unless radical steps are taken to curb demand, increase product lifespans and improve management of waste and recycling capacity, plastic pollution will increase in line with the increase in the use of plastic. This will triple due to population growth and rising incomes. The report estimates that by 2060, nearly two-thirds of plastic waste will come from short-lived products such as packaging, low-cost items, and textiles.

“If we want a world free of plastic pollution, in line with the goals of the United Nations Environment Assembly, we will need to take much stronger and more coordinated action on a global scale,” said Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General of the OECD. “This report proposes to establish concrete public policies that can be applied throughout the life cycle of plastic products and that can considerably curb – and even eliminate – the leakage of plastic into the environment.

The preliminary document of the OECD gives possible solutions to avoid the scenario by suggesting some public policies aimed at reducing the environmental impact of plastics and promoting a more circular use of them. Taxes on plastic products, including packaging. In addition to economic incentives for the reuse and repair of plastic items. Set recycled content targets for new plastic products while implementing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems. This added to an improvement in waste management infrastructure and a substantial increase in waste collection rates.

Furthermore, the report (available in a preliminary version ahead of its full release later this year) predicts that, without bold new public policies, global plastic consumption will rise from 460 million tonnes (Mt) in 2019, to 1,231 Mt. in 2060. which represents a faster increase than that of most raw materials. The fastest growth will be in developing and emerging countries in Africa and Asia, although OECD member countries will still produce far more plastic waste per person (238 kilograms per year on average) in 2060 than non-OECD countries. OECD. Organization (77 kg).

An exponential increase

Globally, plastic leakage into the environment is expected to double to 44 Mt per year, while the accumulation of plastic in lakes, rivers and oceans is expected to more than triple, from 353 Mt of plastic waste in 2019 to 1014 Mt by 2060. Pollution emanates from larger debris, known as microplastics, but seepage of microplastics (synthetic polymers less than 5mm in diameter) from items such as industrial plastic pallets, textiles, and tire wear has also become a serious concern.

The expected increase in the consumption of plastic and its waste will occur, despite the fact that, according to projections, the use of recycled plastic in the manufacture of new products will increase and there will be technological advances and sectoral economic changes, which imply an estimated decrease 16% by 2060 in the amount of plastic needed to generate $1 of economic output.

The proportion of plastic waste that is successfully recycled is projected to rise to 17% in 2060, compared to 9% in 2019; meanwhile, incineration and landfill will continue to account for around 20% and 50% of plastic waste, respectively. The percentage of plastic that is not subject to waste management systems -and rather ends up in uncontrolled landfills, burned in the open air or leaks into the ground or aquatic environments- will decrease from 22% to 15%.

Results

This new publication builds on the first report from the OECD Global Plastic Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options, published in February 2022. The first report found that plastic waste has doubled in two decades and that the largest part goes to landfills, is incinerated or leaks into the environment. As of its publication, UN member states committed to negotiating a legally binding international agreement by 2024, in order to eradicate plastic pollution.

The Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060 looks at the impact of two possible scenarios. In the first, a regional action scenario consisting of combining fiscal and regulatory policies mainly in OECD countries, plastic waste could reduce go by almost a fifth and plastic leaks into the environment could be reduced by more than half. , this without causing a substantial impact on world GDP, which would be 0.3% lower in 2060. In the second, a global action scenario that contemplates applying stricter policies throughout the world, plastic waste could be reduced by one-third part and eliminated almost completely. leakage of plastic into the environment, with an estimated decrease of 0.8% of global GDP.

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