Transforming plastic waste could reduce ocean pollution

11th February 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water


Andrew Sims

Applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows could transform the plastics economy and drastically reduce negative impacts such as leakage into oceans, says a new report.

The New plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics from the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation finds that most plastic packaging is used only once, with about 95% of the value of the material, worth up to $120bn a year, lost to the economy.

Continuing the same model, coupled with expected growth, would lead to more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish by 2050. Plastic packaging will also consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget by the middle of the century. The report states that plastic packaging already generates negative costs amounting to $40bn.

It outlines a new approach based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics, which it says would drastically reduce leakage of plastics into natural systems, particular oceans, and decouple plastics from fossil feedstocks.

Martin Stuchtey, at McKinsey & Company, which collaborated on the report, said: ‘Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry. After-use plastics could, with circular economy thinking, be turned into valuable feedstock.’

Waste firm Recycling Technologies, which participated in research for the report, said the approach offered the plastics value chain an opportunity to deliver better system-wide economic and environmental outcomes.

It warned, however, that achieving such systemic change would require major collaboration between all stakeholders, including consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers, businesses involved in collection, sorting and reprocessing, cities and policymakers.


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

Transform articles

Hosting the energy transition

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

Joe Nisbet explores the challenges and opportunities of delivering marine net gain through offshore renewables

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

Hello and welcome to the June/July of Transform.

31st 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

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