OECD: Global plastic disposal nearly doubled over 19 years

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Plastic waste covering a beach in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, is seen in July 2020.

Global plastic production and disposal almost doubled between 2000 and 2019, while only 9% of the plastic used worldwide was recycled, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a recent report.

The Global Plastics Outlook, the first comprehensive report on the status of global plastic production, disposal and recycling, was released Tuesday. In the report, the OECD called for stronger measures to be taken worldwide, saying “the current plastics lifecycle is far from circular.”

According to the report, worldwide plastic production increased from 234 million tons in 2000 to 460 million tons in 2019, and plastic waste also increased from 156 million tons to 353 million tons.

In 2019, only 9% was recycled, 50% was sent to landfills, 19% was incinerated and 22% was disposed of at uncontrolled dumpsites or leaked into the environment.

The report also said as much as 6.1 million tons leaked into rivers, oceans and lakes in 2019 alone, and that 109 million tons had accumulated in rivers and 30 million tons in the ocean over the years.

“Plastic leakage is fundamentally altering marine and terrestrial ecosystems, whilst also posing substantial risks to human livelihoods that depend on the integrity of such environments,” said the report, which warned that accumulated plastic waste will continue to pollute the environment for decades.