Story at a glance
- The nonprofit Minderoo Foundation outlined which countries and institutions are leading plastics polluters.
- The U.S. was in the top 10 for plastic waste per capita but second for single-use plastics production.
- The report authors say both policy reform and investor overhaul is needed.
As plastic waste continues to be a serious burden on the environment — especially oceans — a new report highlights the countries and corporations that contribute the most and least to the pollution crisis threatening Earth’s ecosystems.
Compiled by the Minderoo Foundation, the data looks at how plastics circulate through a country’s economy, ranging from the domestic production and export to the conversion rates of plastic products from single-use to recycling.
When looking specifically at the country with single-use plastic waste generation per capita, Singapore came in as the top offender, with its population responsible for 76 kilograms of plastic waste per capita, or per person.
Following Singapore was Australia, Oman and the Netherlands, with the U.S. coming in at No. 9. The average volume of plastic waste generated by individual Americans is 53 kilograms.
While the U.S. wasn't the worst offender in terms of individual plastic waste generation, it did come in second for the quantity of domestic production of plastic products, generating an estimated 28.8 million metric tons of in-scope polymer products that usually contribute to pollution.
China was ranked as the leading producer of single-use plastics, generating roughly 51.4 million metric tons.
In addition to pollution, the production of plastics is particularly hazardous to the environment. Most plastic products are made from fracked oil and gas, whose large-scale factory emissions contribute to climate change by trapping heat into the atmosphere.
The report notes that should the production of plastics continue at the current rate, it could account for 5 to 10 percent of the world’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Individual countries are not the only entities responsible for increases in plastics production and usage; the report highlights companies like ExxonMobil, Dow, BlackRock, Vanguard, Barclays and HSBC as some of the financial institutions leading the financing into single-use waste production.
"Twenty of the world’s largest banks, including Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America, are estimated to have lent almost US$30 billion for the production of these polymers since 2011," the report authors note.
The report concludes by saying both policymakers and investors need to divest in fossil fuels and plastics productions through a variety of measures, including committing to recycling reporting and metrics and imposing stricter regulations on plastics producers.