Global plastic waste to almost treble by 2060, forecasts suggest

9th June 2022


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, the OECD has forecast.

In a new report, the think tank explains how the increase will be driven by rising populations and incomes, with around two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 set to come from short-lived items such as packaging, low-cost products and textiles.

Growth will be fastest in developing and emerging countries in Africa and Asia, although developed nations are still forecast to produce much more plastic waste per person.

The projected rise in consumption and waste comes despite an expected increase in the use of recycled plastic in manufacturing new goods, as well as technological advances and sectoral economic shifts.

Without radical action to curb demand, increase product lifespans and improve waste management and recyclability, the report forecasts plastics waste to grow from 353 million tonnes (Mt) in 2019 to 1,014 Mt in 2060.

“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 co-ordinated action,” said OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann.

“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.”

Globally, plastic leakage to the environment is seen doubling to 44 Mt a year, while the build-up of plastics in lakes, rivers and oceans is forecast to more than triple.

However, the share of plastic waste that is successfully recycled is projected to rise to 17% in 2060 from 9% in 2019, while incineration and landfilling will continue to account for around 20% and 50% of plastic waste respectively.

The share of plastic that evades waste management systems – ending up instead in uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaking into the soil or aquatic environments – is forecast to fall to 15% from 22%.

To reduce the environmental impacts of plastics and encourage a more circular use of them, the report recommends:

  • Taxes on plastics, including on plastic packaging
  • Incentives to reuse and repair plastic items
  • Targets for recycled content in new plastic products
  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes
  • Improved waste management infrastructure
  • Increased litter collection rates

“The OECD stands ready to assist governments in making this transition by designing, developing and delivering better policies to eliminate the negative environmental impacts of plastics production and ultimately achieve plastics-free oceans and rivers for future generations,” Cormann said.

“As the challenges associated with plastics production, namely growing leakage and greenhouse gas emissions, are trans-boundary in nature, it will also be crucial that countries respond to the challenge with co-ordinated and global solutions.”

Image credit: iStock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close