Just 20 firms behind more than half of single-use plastic waste – study

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Just 20 companies are the source of more than half of all the single-use plastic items thrown away globally.

That’s the conclusion of analysis of the corporate network behind plastic production.

The study looked at approximately 1,000 factories that make the raw materials needed for single-use products.

Plastic bottles, food packages and bags are among billions of items that are used once and then thrown away, often ending up in the oceans.

The research – carried out by a consortium including the London School of Economics – looked at which companies are at the base of the plastic supply chain and make polymers, the building blocks of all plastics.

It names 20 petrochemical companies which it says are the source of 55 per cent of the world’s single-use plastic waste. The companies include ExxonMobil, Dow and Sinopec.

The study also assesses which countries generate most single-use plastic waste, based on per head of population.

The UK comes in fourth, with more than 40kg of plastic waste generated per person per year, the authors state, while Australia is top and the United States second.

Part of the increase in demand for plastic stems from the need for masks and other protective and medical equipment to deal with the Covid crisis.

Supply chain focus
Previous research has focused on the impact of plastic waste on the natural world, or on the consumer companies making and selling consumer products packaged in plastic.

By contrast, this analysis tracks the flow of plastic through the supply chain, starting with the manufacturers of the basic ingredients that go into making single use items.

Those ingredients, known as polymers, are mostly produced by processing fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal.

Agencies

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