PARIS: A world ravaged by plastic pollution is on track to nearly triple plastic use in less than four decades, according to findings released Friday (June 3).
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the annual production of plastic from fossil fuels will reach 1.2 billion tons by 2060 and waste will exceed one billion tons.
Even with aggressive action to reduce demand and improve efficiency, plastic production could nearly double in less than 40 years, the 38-nation organization said in a report.
However, such a globally coordinated policy could massively increase the proportion of future plastic waste that is recycled, from 12 percent to 40 percent.
There is growing international alarm about the volume and ubiquity of plastic pollution and its impact.
In the most remote and more pristine areas of the planet, microplastics have been discovered in fish in the deepest reaches of the ocean and locked in polar ice.
The debris is estimated to cause the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals each year.
“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest environmental challenges of the 21st century, causing major damage to ecosystems and human health,” said OECD chief Mathias Cormann.
About 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, more than 60 percent of which has been dumped in landfills, incinerated or dumped directly into rivers and oceans.
In 2019, some 460 million tons of plastic were used, twice as much as 20 years earlier.
The amount of plastic waste has also nearly doubled, over 350 million tons, of which less than 10 percent is recycled.
The new report pits a business-as-usual trajectory against the benefits of more ambitious global policies to reduce plastic use and pollution.
Driven by economic growth and a growing population, plastic production will increase in both scenarios, the OECD warns.
Where policy can make a huge difference is how we deal with waste.
At present, nearly 100 million tons of plastic waste is either poorly managed or allowed to leak into the environment, a figure that will double by 2060.
“Coordinated and ambitious global efforts can nearly eliminate plastic pollution by 2060,” the report concludes.
Earlier this year, the United Nations initiated a process to develop an internationally binding treaty to limit plastic pollution.