Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics

Trends, Prospects and Policy Responses

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Plastics have become one of the most prolific materials on the planet: in 2015 we produced about 380 million tonnes of plastics globally, up from 2 million tonnes in the 1950s. Yet today only 15% of this plastic waste is collected and recycled into secondary plastics globally each year. This report looks at why this is the case and what we can do about it, as the pervasiveness of plastics is becoming an urgent public health and planetary problem. Not only is the diffusion of waste plastics into the wider environment creating hugely negative impacts, but plastics production emits approximately 400 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually as a result of the energy used in their production, transport, and final waste treatment. Improved plastics collection and recycling represents a promising solution to these concerns.




Plastics have become one of the most ubiquitous materials in our everyday lives. Their remarkable properties have made them essential in a wide range of sectors, generating a number of benefits for society and for the environment. Plastics are used to protect or preserve foodstuffs, helping to reduce food waste, and to build lighter and more fuel efficient vehicles, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plastics are now one of the most important material categories by volume, with global production surpassing that of other key products such as paper and aluminium.


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