A new report by the World Economic Forum forecasts that there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Entitled “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics,” the report contains statistics about the amount of plastic polluting the ocean, like how 150 million tons of plastic are floating in areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where sea currents cause floating plastic to accumulate.
- Most plastic packaging is used only once; new report reveals that 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy
- Report predicts that, on the current track, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 (by weight)
- Report offers vision for a global economy in which plastics never become waste, and a blueprint for the systemic change and collaboration needed to realize that vision
The report provides for the first time a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed.
The report is underpinned by the principles of the circular economy – an economy that aims to keep materials at their highest value at all times. Assessing global plastic packaging flows comprehensively for the first time, the report finds that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use. The New Plastics Economy, outlined in this report, envisages a fundamental rethink for plastic packaging and plastics in general – a new model based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and finding alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.
“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy. To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilize to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy,” said Dominic Waughray, Head or Public-Private Partnership, World Economic Forum
The report, produced as part of Project MainStream, a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, finds that the use of plastics has increased twentyfold in the past half-century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years. While plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, the report shows that their value chains currently entail significant drawbacks.
“Linear models of production and consumption are increasingly challenged by the context within which they operate – and this is particularly true for high-volume, low-value materials such as plastic packaging. By demonstrating how circular economy principles can be applied to global plastic flows, this report provides a model for achieving the systemic shift our economy needs to make in order to work in the long term,” said Dame Ellen MacArthur, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Achieving the systemic change needed to shift the global plastic value chain will require major collaboration efforts between all stakeholders across the global plastics value chain – consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers, businesses involved in collection, sorting and reprocessing, cities, policy-makers and NGOs.
The report proposes the creation of an independent coordinating vehicle to set direction, establish common standards and systems, overcome fragmentation, and foster innovation opportunities at scale.