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OECD "Global Plastics Outlook" report: plastic recycling rate is only 9% - Maypak

June 20, 2022

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that 460 million tonnes of plastic were used globally in 2019, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000.

The Paris-based OECD said the amount of plastic waste more than doubled to 353 million tonnes during the period.

"After accounting for losses in the recycling process, only 9% of plastic waste ends up being recycled, 19% is incinerated and nearly 50% is sent to sanitary landfills," the company said in its Global Plastics Outlook.

*A graph showing the proportion of plastic waste that is recycled, incinerated, landfilled or dumped into the environment.

"The remaining 22% is discarded in uncontrolled landfills, open burning or leaking into the environment."

The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced plastic use by 2.2% in 2020 compared to the previous year. However, overall use is "expected to pick up again" as the economy rebounds and single-use plastic use rises.

Plastics accounted for 3.4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, 90 percent of which came from "the production and conversion of fossil fuels," the report said.

Plastic production accounted for 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, the report said.

In the face of rampant global warming and pollution, "it is critical that countries meet the challenges with coordinated global solutions," OECD Secretary-General Matthias Coleman said in the report.

The OECD has proposed a series of "levers" to tackle the problem, including developing a market for renewable plastics, which currently account for only 6% of the total - mostly for economic reasons.

It added that new technologies related to reducing the environmental footprint of plastics accounted for only 1.2% of all innovations in the product.

While calling for a "more circular plastic life cycle", the OECD said policies must also limit overall consumption.

It also called for "significant investment in basic waste management infrastructure", including an annual input of 25 billion euros for plastics processing in low- and middle-income countries.

Plastics Treaty Negotiations:

The report was released less than a week before the opening of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi on February 28, where formal talks on a future international plastics treaty are expected to begin to discuss the scope of plastics control.

Shardul Agrawala, head of the OECD's environment and economic integration unit, said the report "further underlines the need for countries to come together and start seeking a global agreement to address this very important necessity

When asked about treaty priorities to be discussed in Nairobi, she said "waste management is the most pressing issue, which is responsible for most of the environmental leakage and pollution".

"But we should not just focus on individual solutions, but in the long run, there is a need for international cooperation and agreed standards," she said in an online news conference on Monday.

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