The current plastics lifecycle is far from circular


Annual plastics production has more than doubled in the last two decades and is projected to triple by 2060

Population growth and higher incomes have driven up global plastics production, which doubled between 2000 and 2019, soaring to 460 million tonnes (Mt) in 2019. In this same period, the growth of plastics has outpaced that of economic growth by almost 40%. In the absence of new policies, plastics use is projected to triple from its 2019 levels, increasing to 1231 Mt by 2060.





During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced overall plastics use, with decreases especially in industrial and commercial applications

The decline in overall economic activity and lockdowns during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in plastics use in industry and commercial sectors. Overall, in 2020 global plastics use declined by 2.2% compared to 2019 levels. However, with a rebounding economy, plastics use is projected to pick up again.

At the same time, the pandemic resulted in a rapid increase in the demand for personal protective equipment (including facemasks), a shift from dining in restaurants to take-away and a shift from in-store shopping to online retail. These changed patterns increased single-use plastic waste and its leakage into the environment.





Increased plastics use intensifies plastic waste generation and challenges related to waste management

Global plastic waste generation more than doubled from 156 Mt in 2000 to 353 Mt in 2019. Almost two-thirds of total plastic waste comes from applications with lifetimes below five years: packaging (40%), consumer products (12%) and textiles (11%). By 2060, global plastic waste generation will almost triple, reaching 1014 Mt.

Only 15% of plastic waste was collected for recycling in 2019, and 40% of this material ended up as recycling residues needed further disposal. After taking into account recycling residues and disposal of collected litter, only 9% of plastic waste was recycled, while 19% was incinerated and almost 50% went to sanitary landfills. The remaining 22% was disposed of in uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaked into the environment. By 2060, recycling rates are projected to increase to 17%, growing at a faster pace than all other waste management approaches. However, it will still represent a smaller share of waste management compared to incineration (18%) and landfilling (50%).


Read more:

- Plastic leakage and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing

What can policy makers and stakeholders do?

- Plastic pollution is growing relentlessly as waste management and recycling fall short, says OECD (news release)

- Back to plastics main page


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