May 24

Did you know: Just 20 of these giant companies produce more than half of the world’s single-use plastic waste?

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Plastic production seems to be becoming the exit for petrochemical companies. But so far they were just standing in the dark.

In 2019, on the occasion of World Garbage Day on September 18, scientists at Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) conducted a classic study. They contacted 70,000 volunteers in 50 countries around the world, asking them to count the number of pieces of plastic they picked up during the campaign.

A total of 476,423 pieces of plastic trash were found. But the second step is the fun part of the experiment. Volunteers were asked if they recognized which company the piece of plastic waste belonged to.

Although most of the pieces of this waste were too small and anonymous, volunteers still found 11,732 pieces of trash recovered were Coca-Cola, second was Nesele with 4,846 pieces, followed by Pepsi with 3,362 . Fast-moving consumer goods and confectionery brands such as Mondelez, Unilever and Mars all made the top 10 for plastic waste.

But this experiment ultimately raises a question: Is it pushing the entire environmental responsibility onto these companies and the consumers themselves? What about plastic manufacturers, where are they?

Nearly three years after the BFFP’s research, another organization, the Minderoo Foundation, has finally brought the world’s top plastic producers to light. Not only that, they also revealed the investors and banks that gave these companies loans, who had previously remained hidden and were behind the global plastic crisis.

A comprehensive analysis shows that just the top 100 companies produce 90% of single-use plastic worldwide. The top 20 of them continue to be responsible for 55% of all global plastic waste.

The pyramid continues to grow at the top: The top 3 companies alone, ExxonMobil, Dow of the US and Sinopec of China, produce 16% of plastic waste. These are all multinational corporations operating in the field of petrochemicals.

Only 20 companies produce more than half of the world’s disposable plastic

In a collaborative study with Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Minderoo Foundation launched the “plastic waste producer” index for the first time to rank 100 companies whose products are polymers, raw materials materials are being used to make disposable plastic products, from plastic bags to plastic bottles and face masks.

Most of these products that are not recycled will be burned, buried in landfills, or else they will be thrown away somewhere and find their way to poison the ocean. Single-use plastics are contributing to the climate crisis as they create mountains of global waste that cannot be disposed of.

Statistics show that only about 10%-15% of single-use plastics are recycled globally each year.

But where did the plastic material come from? Minderoo Foundation analysis gives us an unprecedented look at the giants of plastic production for the first time. They are actually petrochemical companies, financed by major investors and banks around the world.

For example, ExxonMobil is currently the largest single-use plastic producer in the world, contributing up to 5.9 million tons to the global garbage mountain. The world’s largest chemical company, US-based Dow, generated 5.5 million tons of plastic waste, while China’s oil and gas company, Sinopec, generated 5.3 million tons.

The analysis says that just 20 companies in the top of the rankings produced more than half of the 130 million tonnes of single-use plastic that was thrown away in 2019. That’s 11 companies based in Asia. , 4 companies in Europe, 3 companies in North America, one company in Latin America and one company in the Middle East.

Their plastic production is funded by leading banks, led by Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. In terms of equity, Saudi Arabia is the place with the strongest investment in plastic production. Second is China, and third is the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ranking also revealed that on a per capita basis, Australia is currently the country that generates the most one-time plastic waste. It is followed by the United States, South Korea and the United Kingdom. As for the total amount of waste, China is the country that discharges the most single-use plastic, followed by the US, India, Japan and the UK.

Why are petrochemical companies turning to plastics?

Retired former US vice president Al Gore and an environmentalist said the Minderoo Foundation’s analysis was ground-breaking. It has revealed a fact that fossil fuel mining companies are rushing to switch to plastic production.

Explaining this trend, Gore said it is because the two main money-making markets for oil and gas giants, the transportation and power generation sectors, are being tightly controlled. Carbon offloading regulations and falling oil prices are hurting their operations.

Faced with that situation, polymer materials seem to be a way out. Petrochemical products can be used to produce polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Those are the 5 main materials to create disposable plastic products.

However, Gore said: “Since most plastic is made from oil and gas – especially gas – plastic production and consumption is becoming an important driver of the climate crisis.

What’s more, plastic waste – especially from single-use plastics – is piling up in landfills, roadsides and rivers that will carry large amounts of it into the oceans.”

Control of the plastic product chain has so far been concentrated only on manufacturers of finished plastic products, such as consumer companies, and the customers themselves. Over the past few decades, the giants of the oil and gas and plastics industries at the top of the raw materials supply chain have remained largely in the dark, researchers say.

And when the plastic economy and the giants that produce these polymers go unchecked, we are more likely to fail in our plans to manage and tackle the global plastic waste crisis.

Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, president of the Minderoo Foundation, said: “Plastic pollution is one of the biggest and most serious threats facing our planet. And the current outlook looks grim. We can’t let these fossil fuel-based plastic producers continue to operate out of control.”

Through their new research, the Forrest and Minderoo Foundation want to push governments, the financial world and manufacturers themselves to take action to re-regulate the production of plastic materials.

“With the oceans suffocating and plastic having an adverse effect on human health, we can’t help but act,” he said.


Tags

company, disposable plastic, giant, microplastics, plastic trash, plastic waste, umd


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