Twenty companies are responsible for producing more than half of all the single-use plastic waste globally, fuelling the climate crisis and creating an environmental catastrophe, new research reveals.
Your guess is as good as mine. There are many multinational culprits on the list, as well as privately owned entities. Australia leads the list of countries for generating the most single-use plastic waste on a per capita basis, ahead of the United States, South Korea and Britain.
ExxonMobil is the greatest single-use plastic waste polluter in the world, contributing 5.9m tonnes to the global waste mountain, concludes the analysis by the Minderoo Foundation of Australia with partners including Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute. The largest chemicals company globally, Dow, which is based in the US, created 5.5m tonnes of plastic waste, while China’s oil and gas enterprise, Sinopec, 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. Their plastic production is funded by leading banks, chief among Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.
Al Gore, the environmentalist and former US vice-president said the groundbreaking analysis exposed how fossil fuel companies were rushing to switch to plastic production as two of their main markets – transport and electricity generation – were being decarbonised.
“Since most plastic is made from oil and gas – especially fracked gas – the production and consumption of plastic are becoming a significant driver of the climate crisis,” said Gore.
“Moreover, the plastic waste that results – particularly from single-use plastics – is piling up in landfills, along roadsides, and in rivers that carry vast amounts into the ocean.”
The plastic waste crisis grows every year. In the next five years, the global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow by more than 30%.
By 2050 plastic is expected to account for 5%-10% of greenhouse gas emissions.