55% of the world’s single-use plastic is produced by 20 global companies that are fuelling the climate crisis, new research shows. These companies include state-owned and multinational corporations that deal in oil, gas and chemicals.
ExxonMobil comes at the top of the Plastic Waste Makers Index, producing 5.9 million tonnes of the world’s total plastic waste. Other companies include Dow, the largest chemical company in the world with 5.6m tonnes, and China’s oil and gas enterprise Sinopec, which created 5.3m tonnes. Eleven of the companies are based in Asia, four in Europe, three in North America, one in Latin America, and one in the Middle East. On a per-capita basis, Australia is the country that generates the most single-use plastic waste at 59 kilograms per person in 2019.
The report also singled out the banks that fund such plastic production. These include Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and Bank of America. These banks, among other global investors, are estimated to have lent almost $30 billion for the production of these polymers since 2011.
Single-use plastics typically end up in the ocean and break down into tiny particles that impact wildlife and the ocean’s ability to store carbon. They also contain chemical additives such as plasticisers that have been found in humans and are linked to a range of reproductive health problems. If single-use plastic production continues at its current rate, it is likely to account for 5-10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Plastic Waste Makers Index is conducted by the Minderoo Foundation, with support from the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute, among other organisations. Their recommendations for solving the plastics crisis are for polymer producers, banks and policymakers to commit to disclosing regular reports on levels of financial investment and plastic production and to convert to recycling.
“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest and most critical threats facing our planet,” said Dr Andrew Forrest, chairman of the Minderoo Foundation.
“The current outlook is set to get worse and we simply cannot allow these producers of fossil fuel-derived plastics to continue as they have done without check. With our oceans choking and plastic impacting our health, we need to see firm intervention from producers, governments and the world of finance to break the cycle of inaction.”