Approximately 50% of all single-use plastic waste originates from just 20 companies, according to a recent study. The study also took a holistic look at the plastics industry supply chain, including those that make polymers and other building blocks for plastic production.
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The study was carried out by a consortium of institutions including the London School of Economics, researcher group Wood Mackenzie and Stockholm Environment Institute, and was led by Australia’s Minderoo Foundation.
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Some of the companies found to contribute the most single-use plastic waste include U.S.-based ExxonMobil, Dow, Sinopec, Indorama Ventures, Saudi Aramco, PetroChina, LyondellBasell, Reliance Industries, Braskem, Alpek SA de CV, Borealis, Lotte Chemical, INEOS and total Total in that order.
In response to the findings, ExxonMobil claims that it is taking action to address the issue of plastic waste on its end. “ExxonMobil is taking action to address plastic waste by increasing plastic recyclability, supporting improvements in plastic waste recovery – for example, through our founding membership in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste – and minimizing plastic pellet loss from our operations,” an ExxonMobil spokesperson said in a statement.
The study looked at 1,000 companies that make the raw materials needed for single-use plastic. Research also looked at which countries generate the most single-use plastic waste per person, finding Australia in first place and the U.S. in second.
Unlike previous research, this study tracks the plastic supply chain and considers even manufacturers of basic plastic manufacturing ingredients. The polymers used in the manufacture of plastics are produced through fossil fuel processing, which contributes to atmospheric pollution.
Professor Sam Fankhauser, one of the study’s contributors and a specialist in climate change economics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics, says that plastic waste is just one of the effects of over-reliance on oil and gas.
“Our reliance on oil and gas is not only fuelling climate change, but as the primary material used in the production of throwaway plastics also devastating our oceans,” Fankhauser said. “It is critically important petrochemical companies move towards circular economy-based alternatives if we are going to successfully tackle these interlinked crises.”
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