Global plastic waste set to almost triple by 2060, says OECD

The amount of plastic waste produced globally is on track to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled, according to a 2022 OECD report.

Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060 says that without radical action, plastic pollution will rise in tandem with an almost threefold increase in plastics use. 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.

We post the caveat that this and other research must better frame the problem of plastic pollution: It is a problem created and driven by the plastics and petrochemical industries—not a problem created by the general public that is sold plastic products.

F Minus opens a new front in the climate fight: a call for divestment from fossil fuel lobbyists.

Launched in July 2023, F Minus is using its revolutionary database of state-level lobbyists for upstream and midstream oil, gas, and coal interests to demonstrate the extent to which these lobbyists are also representing people, schools, communities, and businesses being harmed by the climate crisis.

The fossil fuel industry is rapidly losing the social license needed to build new projects as the severity of the climate crisis becomes increasingly clear and the public embraces the energy transition. Nevertheless, the fossil fuel industry remains firmly embedded in state capitols because of positive or merely neutral public opinion about its lobbyists, more than 1,500 of whom also represent non-fossil fuel companies, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations whose activities are perceived as beneficial. F Minus is disrupting this dynamic and calling on people to fire their fossil fuel lobbyists.

A comprehensive introduction to the plastics life cycle—the impacts on our lives, our future, and our planet—and the actions we can take.

Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by plastics: perhaps you have a book in one hand and your phone—made of various metals, plastics, and glass—in the other, or you are reading this on your polyurethane mattress after having flipped on a plastic light switch. In this Essential Knowledge series volume, Imari Walker-Franklin and Jenna Jambeck provide a deep exploration of the entire life of plastic things—plastics production and use, plastic waste generation and management, the environmental and societal impacts of plastics in our environment, and, finally, the policies that can help reduce pollution caused by our heavy use of plastics.

One of the most current and comprehensive summaries on the subject, Plastics covers not only ocean and terrestrial plastic pollution but also the potential harms of microplastics on the human body. The authors also explain why we use plastic for so many products, how trash ends up in even the most remote corners of our world, and the alternatives and interventions that can help address our overreliance on this virtually imperishable material. As easily digestible to read as it is important, this book empowers its readers with the crucial knowledge and information they need to make thoughtful consumer choices, influence change, and spark inspiration.

This report responds to a request in the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act for a scientific synthesis of the role of the US both in contributing to and responding to global plastic pollution in the oceans. We want to point out that of course plastic pollution spans much more than plastic in the oceans, extending throughout plastic’s endless toxic existence and including many types of land, air, and water pollution, from the moment its fossil fuel ingredients are extracted through storage, transportation, refining; manufacturing, use, and disposal. We also note it is less preferable to refer to plastic pollution as “waste,” as that confers that pollution is acceptable and manageable if it is not wasted—which is not the case.

From abstract: “The United States is a major producer of plastics and in 2016, generated more plastic waste by weight and per capita than any other nation. Although the U.S. solid waste management system is advanced, it is not sufficient to deter leakage into the environment. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste calls for a national strategy by the end of 2022 to reduce the nation’s contribution to global ocean plastic waste at every step – from production to its entry into the environment – including by substantially reducing U.S. solid waste generation. This report also recommends a nationally-coordinated and expanded monitoring system to track plastic pollution in order to understand the scales and sources of U.S. plastic waste, set reduction and management priorities, and measure progress.”

Abstract: “The rapid growth in science, media, policymaking, and corporate action aimed at “solving” plastic pollution has revealed an overwhelming complexity, which can lead to paralysis, inaction, or a reliance on downstream mitigations. Plastic use is diverse – varied polymers, product and packaging design, pathways to the environment, and impacts – therefore there is no silver bullet solution. Policies addressing plastic pollution as a single phenomenon respond to this complexity with greater reliance on downstream mitigations, like recycling and cleanup. Here, we present a framework of dividing plastic use in society into sectors, which can be used to disentangle the complexity of plastic pollution and direct attention to upstream design for the circular economy. Monitoring plastic pollution in environmental compartments will continue to provide feedback on mitigations, but with a sector framework, scientists, industry, and policymakers can begin to shape actions to curb the harmful impacts of plastic pollution at the source.”

Abstract: “Plastic pollution and climate change are serious and interconnected threats to public and planetary health, as well as major drivers of global social injustice. Prolific use of plastics in the construction industry is likely a key contributor, resulting in burgeoning efforts to promote the recycling or downcycling of used plastics. Businesses, materials scientists, institutions, and other interested stakeholders are currently exploring the incorporation of plastic waste into building materials and infrastructure at an accelerated rate. Examples include composite asphalt-plastic roads, plastic adhesives, plastic-concrete, plastic/crumb rubber turf, plastic lumber, plastic acoustic/thermal insulation, plastic-fiber rammed earth, and plastic soil reinforcement/stabilizers. While some believe this to be a reasonable end-of-life scenario for plastic waste, research shows such efforts may cause further problems. These uses of plastic waste represent an ongoing effort at “greenwashing,” which both delays and distracts from finding real solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. Hypothesized effects of incorporating plastic waste in construction materials, including economic, environmental, human health, performance, and social impacts, are evaluated in this mini review. We compare known impacts of these treatments for plastic waste and provide recommendations for future research. Evidence shows that such practices exacerbate the negative ecological, health, and social impacts of plastic waste and increase demand for continued production of new (virgin) plastics by creating new markets for plastic wastes. We urge caution—and more research—before widely adopting these practices.”