Disclaimer: This glossary presents definitions for key terms employed in the report. Definitions are condensed and may not be complete. They are not to be considered official definitions, rather descriptions of terms as used for the purpose of this report.


Definition used in the Global Plastics Outlook

Biobased plastics

Plastics manufactured from biomass.


The partial or complete breakdown of a polymer as a result of e.g. UV radiation, oxygen attack, biological attack. This implies alteration of the properties, such as discolouration, surface cracking, and fragmentation.

(Waste) incineration

Incineration in a state-of-the-art industrial facility.

(Sanitary) landfilling

The final disposal of waste in or on land in a controlled way and according to state-of-the-art sanitary, environmental protection and other safety requirements.

(Plastic) leakage

Plastic leakage refers to plastics that enter terrestrial and aquatic environments.


Waste that results from littering by individuals in the environment and from fly-tipping. Littered waste is distinct from mismanaged waste, because littering behaviour not necessarily correlated to the provision of basic waste collection and disposal infrastructure. Littered waste can either be collected for further disposal or remain uncollected and leak into the environment.


Recognisable plastic items, such as littered plastic bottles and packaging. In this report, the use of the term encompasses plastics above 5 mm in diameter (i.e. what is often defined as meso and macro plastics elsewhere in the literature).


Solid synthetic polymers smaller than 5 mm in diameter.

Mismanaged waste

Waste that is not captured by any state-of-the-art waste collection or treatment facilities. It includes waste that is burned in open pits, dumped into seas or open waters, or disposed of in unsanitary landfills and dumpsites.


Plastic in the singular form is used as an adjective describing a noun. For example, plastic waste.

Plastic pollution

Broadly, all emissions and risks resulting from plastics production, use, waste management and leakage.


All plastic polymers studied in the report.

Primary microplastics

Plastics that are smaller than 5 mm in diameter by design, such as cosmetic scrubbing agents and plastic pellets.

Primary or virgin plastics

Plastics manufactured from fossil-based (e.g. crude oil) or biobased (e.g. corn, sugarcane, wheat) feedstock that has never been used or processed before.

Recycling rate

Depending on the context, either the share of waste that is collected for recycling or the share of waste that is available as recycled scrap after reprocessing and after taking into account the disposal of recycling residues.

Secondary (recycled) plastics

Plastic polymers made from recycled material.

Secondary microplastics

Microplastics that are formed from the fragmentation of larger plastics, such as microplastics from tyre abrasion, synthetic microfibres shed from textile products and microplastics stemming from the degradation and fragmentation of macroplastics that have already been lost to the environment.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at