Transforming plastic waste could reduce ocean pollution

11th February 2016


Related Topics

Related tags

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

Author

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.


Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

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

Find an expert