1. Overview and policy highlights

Plastics have seen a remarkable increase in use since the mid-20th century. However, there is mounting evidence that the leakage of plastics into the environment poses one of the great environmental challenges of the 21st century.

The OECD’s first Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options (OECD, 2022[1]), released in February 2022, found that plastics production has increased 230-fold from 2 million tonnes (Mt) in 1950 to 460 Mt in 2019. The report concluded that despite recent policy initiatives to close the plastics loop, the plastics lifecycle is only 8% circular.1 The report found that plastic waste more than doubled from 156 Mt in 2000 to 353 Mt in 2019. However, in 2019 only 15% of plastic waste was collected for recycling and only 9% was actually recycled. Half of the plastic waste was landfilled and close to one-fifth was incinerated. A significant share (22%) of plastic waste was mismanaged (not disposed of adequately), ending up in uncontrolled dumpsites or burned in the open, leading to leakage into the environment. In 2019, 22 Mt of plastic waste leaked into the environment.2 The vast majority (by weight) of leaked plastics are macroplastics (88%),3 while the share of microplastics4 is smaller (12%). As of 2019, an estimated 109 Mt of leaked plastics have accumulated in rivers and 30 Mt in the ocean. The report also found that the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 temporarily disrupted previous trends in plastics production and waste generation. While certain plastics applications, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), increased, the overall plastics use decreased by 2.2% as a consequence of the fall in economic activity. Nevertheless, the upward trajectory of plastics production and waste generation resumed in 2021 as economic activity picked up again.

Since the release of the first volume of the Global Plastics Outlook, member states of the United Nations have agreed at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA 5.2) to negotiate an international legally binding instrument by 2024 to end plastic pollution. Meanwhile, global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic still remains uneven, while the geopolitical outlook is increasingly uncertain in the wake of the war in Ukraine. A key question in this context is: what are the plausible scenarios for the evolution of plastics use, waste and leakage to the environment in the coming decades in the absence of additional measures and, as well, through coordinated policy action to address plastic pollution?

The Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060 provides such a forward-looking perspective. This second volume of OECD’s Global Plastics Outlook presents a set of coherent scenarios for plastics to 2060, including plastics use and waste as well as the environmental impacts linked to plastics, especially leakage to the environment. Such an outlook on plastics for the coming decades can help policymakers understand the scale of the challenge to transition to a more sustainable and circular use of plastics and the need for additional policy action to address plastic leakage. By identifying a series of policy packages to bend the plastic curve, the Outlook allows for a better understanding of the environmental benefits and economic consequences of adopting more stringent policies.

Taken together, the two volumes of the Global Plastics Outlook provide a comprehensive roadmap for eliminating plastic leakage and for a more circular plastics lifecycle.

The core of the analysis is based on simulations using the OECD’s multi-sectoral, multi-regional dynamic computable general equilibrium (CGE) model ENV-Linkages (Chateau, Dellink and Lanzi, 2014[2]). For this Outlook, ENV-Linkages has been extended to include plastics for 14 polymer categories as well as both primary and secondary (recycled) plastics production (see Annex A).

A strength of CGE models such as ENV-Linkages is that they embed the drivers of sectoral and regional plastics use, such as demand patterns, production modes (including recycling activities) and trade specialisation, into a consistent framework (see Chapter 2). Projections of plastics use already exist in the published literature5 but this report presents the first projections based on a CGE framework. However, in these studies the projected volumes of plastics follow aggregate economic growth and/or population growth trends, without considering sectoral details. The modelling approach in this report provides a more accurate link between plastics use and economic activities and a more detailed understanding of the consequences of policy action. It considers plastics not only as a final good for consumption, but, above all, as a production input for each sector, thereby taking into account the complexity of the interactions across sectors and regions and along the plastics lifecycle (see Chapter 3).

The ENV-Linkages modelling framework is also used to calculate plastic waste flows. The generation of waste is strongly related to the use of plastics and depends on the average lifespan of each plastic product. The lifespan can be very short, as for packaging, or can span several decades, as for products used in construction (Geyer, Jambeck and Law, 2017[3]). International trade in plastic waste is also modelled, i.e. where plastic waste produced in one country is treated in another.

The ENV-Linkages model has also been enhanced to distinguish the end-of-life fates of plastics, which heavily depend on the waste management capacities and regulations of the location where plastic waste is generated and handled. Four end-of-life fates are modelled: waste can be recycled, incinerated, landfilled (in sanitary landfilling), or mismanaged (which includes uncollected litter) (see Chapter 4).

Finally, this Outlook presents projections to 2060 of the environmental impacts of plastics use and waste. Chapter 5 follows the methodology used in the Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options (OECD, 2022[1]), presenting projections of plastic leakage to the environment that combine estimates from four prominent research groups.6 These experts have refined and customised their analytical approaches to create leakage estimates that are coherent with the projections of economic activities, plastics use and waste from the ENV-Linkages model (see Annex A). Chapter 6 explores other environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the plastic lifecycle and an analysis of biobased plastics. Finally, a lifecycle analysis (LCA) is used to assess other environmental impacts of plastics.7

Projections over long time horizons are, by definition, subject to uncertainties, since it is not possible to foresee with a high degree of accuracy socio-economic changes all the way to 2060. Nevertheless, projections presented here can still highlight the future consequences of current policy choices, and the benefits of more ambitious policy action.

Acknowledging the uncertainties, the Global Plastics Outlook adopts a scenario approach. Specifying and quantifying different scenarios provides a range of possible future developments that are both plausible and internally consistent. Doing so allows for a quantitative evaluation of key economic and environmental developments and in particular the assessment of plastics policies. The modelling provides plastics projections by carefully linking plastic volumes to the consumption and production of plastics in the economy, focusing on the evolution of the sectoral and regional economic drivers of plastics use.

Creating projections of future plastics use, waste and their environmental impacts involves four main steps, as illustrated in Figure 1.1. First, economic flows that drive the use of plastics are projected based on socio-economic trends and various assumptions about policy changes. The second step links plastics use by polymer category and application to different economic activities. The third step provides a link between plastics use and plastic waste, differentiating between waste management techniques. Finally, plastic leakage and key environmental impacts related to the production, use and disposal of plastics are calculated.

The Outlook presents results for a Baseline scenario, which is used to show the environmental consequences to 2060 of current policies on plastics and waste management.8 To highlight uncertainties, alternative Baseline scenarios are explored for some of the main trends that drive plastics use and waste in the coming decades.

The policy scenarios, meanwhile, provide a quantification of the environmental benefits and economic consequences of ambitious policy action on plastics, exploring how plastics, use, waste management and environmental impacts vary with the stringency of policy action. Interactions with climate policies are also analysed. These policy scenarios assess the implications of different policy packages that vary in their range and stringency, and are evaluated in comparison to the Baseline scenario.

The global population is projected to reach 10 billion people by 2060. However, there are important differences across countries. Many European countries, Japan, Korea and the People’s Republic of China (hereafter ‘China’) are facing demographic declines. Other countries are likely to experience high population growth, especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Living standards are projected to increase in all countries, with non-OECD countries gradually converging to 2019 OECD-levels by 2060. With growing populations and improving living standards, global gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to more than triple between 2019 and 2060. As economies grow, they also undergo important structural changes. The service sector is projected to experience the fastest growth due to changing household demand patterns as well as changing production patterns. This “servitisation” of economies also has important implications for plastics use, and therefore plastic waste.

Plastics use is projected to almost triple, from 460 Mt in 2019 to 1 231 Mt in 2060. In the absence of new policies, the use of plastics will grow at a higher rate than other materials in the same period, except wood and timber. The main driver of this surge is economic growth, but population growth also contributes in important ways. Structural and technology changes, on the other hand, drive down plastics use. Changes in the structure of the economy mean that the global average amount of plastic used to produce 1 USD of GDP is projected to fall by 16% between 2019 and 2060, implying a slight relative decoupling of plastics use and GDP. However, the rate at which economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic could alter these projections (Box 1.1).

Primary plastics9 use will continue to dominate (88% in 2060). Even though recycled (secondary) plastics are projected to grow at a faster rate than primary plastics, they are still expected to only make up 12% of the total share of plastics use in 2060.

While OECD countries are projected to double their plastics use, emerging economies are expected to see much more significant increases, from a six-fold increase in Sub-Saharan Africa to a tripling in Asia,10 as illustrated in Figure 1.3. Despite such fast growth, OECD countries are still set to remain the largest consumers of plastics on an average per capita basis in 2060. Global plastic intensity is expected to decrease between 2019 and 2060 globally, thanks to technology change that leads to lower sectoral plastic intensity and to a shift towards less plastic intensive sectors.

While global plastics use is projected to increase for all applications, the strongest growth is likely to be in the three sectors that currently account for 60% of all plastics use: transportation, such as plastic vehicle components (more than tripling by 2060), construction and packaging (more than doubling by 2060). Consequently, while plastics use increases for all polymers (Figure 1.4), the most substantial increases will be in polymers that are used in these applications. For example, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PE (polyethylene) are used for packaging, and their use is projected to more than double by 2060.

Plastic waste is projected to increase almost three-fold – from 353 Mt in 2019 to 1 014 Mt in 2060. Short-lived applications, such as packaging, consumer products and textiles dominate plastic waste streams, accounting for around two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060. Plastic waste from construction and transport applications, such as discarded vehicle components, will also remain sizeable, especially given the rapid economic development in many developing and emerging economies. A large portion of plastic waste will be generated in non-OECD countries (65%), especially in emerging economies in Asia and in Africa, which are projected to see plastic waste grow at the fastest rates.

Recycling is projected to out-pace all other waste management approaches, with recycling rates increasing from 9% in 2019 to 17% in 2060 (Figure 1.5). Even so, recycling will still make up a smaller share of waste management than incineration (18%) and sanitary landfilling (50%).

Despite improvements in waste management infrastructure and litter collection, mismanaged waste is projected to increase in absolute volumes from 79 Mt in 2019 to 153 Mt in 2060. Mismanagement rates of plastic waste decrease to 1% by 2060 in OECD countries, but remain at relatively high levels in non-OECD countries (23%). Large increases in mismanaged plastic waste will be driven by fast economic growth in African and Asian economies, where infrastructure improvements are unforeseen to evolve quickly enough to prevent mismanagement of plastic waste.

Although some decoupling is projected to occur between plastics use and leakage globally, the leakage of plastics into the environment is still projected to almost double from 22 Mt (16 Mt – 28 Mt) in 2019 to 44 Mt (34 Mt – 55 Mt) in 2060.11

Macroplastic leakage will continue to represent a significant share of total leakage (87%) but microplastic leakage is projected to more than double in absolute weight, accounting for 13% of leakage in 2060. While almost 99% of macroplastics will leak from mismanaged waste, microplastic leakage continues to be an issue from a variety of sources, including wastewater sludge, tyre abrasion and road marking wear. Littering is likely to become the fastest growing source of leakage.

As living conditions improve, high-income and middle-income countries are expected to see decreases in volumes of macroplastic leakage, while low-income countries are likely to face increasing macroplastic leakage (Figure 1.6). This is because although plastics use, waste generation and leakage initially increase with rising incomes, as incomes increase further, there is greater demand for better waste management systems and more willingness to deal with visible environmental impacts, such as macroplastic leakage. This trend follows the “Environmental Kuznets Curve”, which has also been observed for some other pollutants. Meanwhile, microplastic leakage seems to follow a different trajectory in which leakage continues to increase, although some saturation occurs at higher levels of income. Interventions to address emissions of microplastics (e.g. from tyre abrasion) are generally less advanced, as this form of leakage has not yet received the same level of scrutiny as macroplastics, it occurs all along the lifecycle of products, the cost-effectiveness of mitigation interventions is not yet fully understood, and policy action remains limited currently.

In terms of regional trends, while OECD countries are likely to see plastic leakage fall to 2.5 Mt in 2060, non-OECD countries see leakage increase significantly, to 41.6 Mt, with a major share stemming from mismanaged plastic waste in emerging economies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Although all countries contribute to increased microplastic leakage, OECD countries will be responsible for almost one-third of global microplastic leakage in 2060.

Projections are bleak for aquatic environments, such as streams, rivers, lakes, seas and the ocean where the build up of plastics is projected to more than triple from 140 Mt in 2019 to reach 493 Mt in 2060 (Figure 1.7). Flows into aquatic environments are also projected to double over the period, aggravating an already serious environmental challenge. Geographical differences in contributions to aquatic leakage are expected to evolve further. China, India, other non-OECD Asian economies and Sub-Saharan Africa together will account for 79% of all aquatic leakage. While China is projected to be the largest emitter of plastic into freshwater environments, other emerging economies in Asia will contribute significantly to plastic leakage into marine environments.

The entire lifecycle of plastics contributes to GHG emissions in significant ways; this is set to continue in the future in the absence of new policies. Currently, 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (Gt CO2e) of GHG emissions can be attributed to the plastics lifecycle, but this is expected to more than double to 4.3 Gt CO2e by 2060. About 90% of these emissions originate from production and conversion, with important differences across polymers: the production of fibres used for textiles is the biggest emitter, followed by polypropylene (PP) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which are used for a variety of applications, including for packaging and for vehicles.

Biobased plastics are far from a panacea. Without new policies, they are only likely to represent a fraction of total plastics use in 2060, at around 0.5%. And even if policy measures succeed in increasing the market share to 5% by 2060, the impact on GHG emissions would still be ambiguous. Although the substitution of fossil-based plastic production by biobased plastics would see direct GHG emissions decrease, the additional land required for growing feedstock may see natural areas converted into arable land, which will induce one-off GHG emissions.

The environmental impacts of plastics are not solely limited to plastic leakage and to greenhouse gas emissions. There is a wide-variety of other impacts linked to plastics, such as resource scarcity, land use, ozone formation, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, toxicity and acidification. Figure 1.8 highlights these impacts of different plastic polymers using lifecycle analysis (LCA) of the cradle-to-gate and end-of-life stages. Impacts tend to differ across polymers: for example while polyurethane (PUR) can cause marine eutrophication, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is carcinogenic for humans. Environmental impacts are projected to more than double to 2060, increasing by 132% to 171%, with land use, as well as marine and freshwater eutrophication seeing the largest increase. The increase in lifecycle impacts is mostly driven by the increase in plastics use and production by 2060. These effects are only partly offset by improvements in waste management that occur by 2060, even in the Baseline scenario. For example, the terrestrial acidification impact of plastics production increases 5% less by 2060 than the volumes produced, owing to the increasing market share of secondary plastics. Moreover, the freshwater ecotoxicity impact of the end-of-life stage increases 33% less than plastics use by 2060 thanks to improved waste management practices.

The previous section paints a bleak picture: without new policies, by 2060 the world will be producing and consuming almost three times as much plastics as today. The environmental impacts of plastics along the entire lifecycle will be more significant than ever. Of great concern is the tripling of quantities of plastic waste generated, which if not managed properly, could lead to a doubling in leakage to the environment and a substantial increase in the stocks of plastics accumulated in rivers and the ocean. Other concerns include the more than doubling of greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics production and end of life, as well as the substantial increase in other health and environmental impacts along the plastics lifecycle.

In the absence of significantly more stringent and coordinated action, the global community is far from achieving its long-term objective of ending plastic pollution. The plastics issue needs to be tackled systematically, with piecemeal measures replaced by co-ordinated action. This report therefore explores several different policy scenarios that could change the outlook by increasing the circularity of the plastics lifecycle and curb plastic leakage to the environment.

More ambitious and co-ordinated policy action is needed along the entire plastics lifecycle, as set out in the policy roadmap in the OECD’s first Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options (OECD, 2022[1]). The roadmap emphasises the need for regulatory and economic policy instruments that can induce economy-wide behavioural changes. This Outlook builds on this roadmap to develop a range of policy packages that together can alter the foundations of the current plastics economy.

Policies can be categorised into three main pillars: Restrain plastic demand and enhance circularity, Enhance recycling and Close leakage pathways. Each building block includes a number of policy instruments (Figure 1.9):

  • Restrain plastic demand and enhance circularity is composed of fiscal instruments that disincentivise the production and use of plastics, and other policies that enhance product design to increase their durability and favour reuse and repair. Instruments include a tax on plastics, including on plastic packaging, a set of policies that fosters circular design, such as increasing the lifespan of plastic products, decreasing the final demand for durables, increasing efficiency of intermediate plastics use, and increasing the demand for repair services.

  • Enhance recycling includes instruments that influence plastics recycling rates, such as recycled content targets, extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes and region-specific recycling rate targets.

  • Close leakage pathways aims to decrease and, where possible, eliminate mismanaged plastic waste by investing in waste management infrastructure, and by increasing litter collection rates, thereby substantially reducing leakage of plastics into the environment.

The Global Plastics Outlook models two scenarios based on the above policies, but with different levels of stringency, to understand their environmental and economic impacts by 2060 (for details see Table 1.1).

The Regional Action scenario varies the level of ambition in the policy package to reflect the different circumstances and challenges of OECD versus non-OECD countries. This policy package aims to reduce the plastics volumes at all stages of the lifecycle by 2060, while limiting economic costs.

The Global Ambition scenario reflects more co-ordinated effort at the international level, with the level of ambition aiming to reduce plastic leakage to near zero by 2060. This reflects the goals of several international initiatives, including the United Nations Environment Assembly’s resolution to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, the G20 “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision,” as well as voluntary action by the private sector. The package includes the same instruments as the Regional Action policy scenario, but with more ambitious targets, and is implemented more rapidly and globally. It would substantially reduce plastics and their environmental impacts along the entire lifecycle though at slightly higher economic costs.

Projections show that the Regional Action policy package could see global plastics use decrease by almost one-fifth from the Baseline level, from 1 231 Mt to 1 018 Mt by 2060 (Figure 1.10). This is largely due to the effects of taxing plastics use, which restrains demand for and production of plastics. Taxing single-use plastics leads to significant reductions in the use of these short lifespan plastics. Plastic waste would also decrease by about one-fifth below Baseline, from 1 014 Mt to 837 Mt, mainly driven by the reduction in demand. Despite these reductions, in 2060 plastics use and waste are still projected to be well above 2019 levels.

As waste management systems undergo important improvements, the global recycling rate would increase to 40% in 2060. Policies that boost demand for plastic scrap and increase the supply of recycled plastics lead to a surge in the market share of secondary plastics, from 12% to 29%. Meanwhile, mismanaged waste would decline by more than 60%, reaching 59 Mt in 2060, even below 2019 levels. A large part of these reductions would be achieved by improving waste management systems in non-OECD countries.

Leakage of macroplastics would fall below Baseline projections for 2060, from 38 Mt to 15 Mt. On the other hand, reductions in microplastics would remain relatively small: a 4% decrease from the Baseline, from 5.8 Mt to 5.6 Mt. While this policy package halves plastic leakage into the environment, including aquatic environments, it is unable to fully prevent all plastic leakage. This is especially true for non-OECD countries, where additional action and more stringent policies are necessary. This highlights the importance of global ambition and co-operation, as modelled in the Global Ambition scenario.

By 2060, this policy package is projected to reduce both plastics use and waste by one-third compared to the Baseline (Figure 1.10). Plastics use would decrease to 827 Mt from 1231 Mt in the Baseline scenario, as taxes realign economic activities away from plastic-using sectors, especially in non-OECD countries in Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa. Similarly, compared to Baseline projections, plastic waste would decrease to 679 Mt from 1014 Mt in 2060 with policies that restrain demand and production playing an important role.

Recycling would increase to almost 60%, becoming the most common waste management option. The market share of secondary plastics would surge to 41% by 2060, primarily due to important demand-pull policies, such as increased recycled content targets. On the other hand, mismanaged waste would reach near zero levels (6 Mt by 2060 compared to 153 Mt in the Baseline scenario). This large decrease can be attributed to massive improvements in waste management infrastructure in non-OECD countries, decreasing mismanaged waste in these regions to 4 Mt.

These improvements will see leakage to the environment substantially curbed by the Global Ambition policy package, falling by 85% compared to the Baseline, from 44 Mt to 6 Mt, and with macroplastic leakage almost completely eliminated. Aquatic leakage is almost completely eliminated as well, from 11.6 Mt in the Baseline projections to 0.2 Mt. Although microplastic leakage is also curbed, it is only reduced by 9% compared to Baseline projections. But even with such ambitious global policy measures, however, in the interim, stocks of plastics will continue to accumulate in the aquatic environment, reaching 300 Mt in 2060, which is slightly more than double the 2019 level. This protracted impact on aquatic environments highlights the need for urgent and ambitious policy measures.

The Global Ambition policy package also contributes to climate goals, by reducing plastics lifecycle GHG emissions by 2.1 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (Gt CO2e) in 2060 – a 50% reduction from the Baseline. This underlines the positive impact of circular policies on decreasing the GHG emissions of the plastics lifecycle. The important synergies between climate and plastics policies are explored further in Box 1.2.

Global GDP would be only 0.3% lower than the Baseline in 2060 if the Regional Action policy package were implemented (Figure 1.11), showing that this policy package can be achieved at a relatively moderate cost to the economy. However, there are important regional differences, with costs ranging from less than 0.1% in China to 1.1% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 1.8% in non-OECD European Union countries.

The Global Ambition policy package is estimated to reduce global GDP by less than 1% below the Baseline, again showing the rather limited economic cost of even highly ambitious policy action. Macroeconomic costs remain small for OECD EU countries and China, although they are larger for non-OECD EU countries and Africa. Differences in macroeconomic costs are mainly explained by differences in the plastics-intensity of production, as well as shifts in comparative advantages across regions. Comparative advantages emerge as policies that foster eco-design improve efficiency and shift economic activity away from less productive sectors.

A substantial share of the costs of these policies is related to the investment required in waste management systems.12 In the Regional Action policy package investments into waste management systems would amount to USD 320 billion globally. In OECD countries the investment would mainly be in improvements of recycling capacities, while non-OECD countries would need to invest in both recycling and preventing mismanaged waste. Developing economies face higher costs than the global average. Official development assistance (ODA) is already used to support action to address plastics leakage in developing countries, but the financial flows are only a fraction of what is needed and additional sources of funding will be required. Further support will be needed in the form of sharing best practices and existing technologies to support rapidly developing countries in improving their waste management systems.

Meanwhile, despite the drastic reduction in leakage to nearly zero, even in the Global Ambition policy package, the stocks of plastics already leaked into the environment would still need to be cleaned up. The environmental benefits of clean-up activities are clear, and the damage avoided could be substantial, including in monetary terms. At the same time, it emerges clearly that pollution prevention makes more economic sense than cleaning up afterwards: having to clean up the full stock of almost 500 Mt plastics in the aquatic environment in 2060 in the Baseline scenario, at costs of more than USD 1 000 per tonne, would be much more costly than eliminating leakage via improved waste management. Overall, more ambitious policies that prevent plastic leakage are much more cost-effective than allowing plastics to leak to the environment; however, cleaning up is still more cost-effective than allowing plastics to pollute natural environments.


[9] Borrelle, S. et al. (2020), “Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution”, Science, Vol. 369/6510, pp. 1515-1518, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba3656.

[15] Britz, W. and D. van der Mensbrugghe (2018), “CGEBox: A Flexible, Modular and Extendable Framework for CGE Analysis in GAMS”, J Glob Econ Anal, Vol. 3/2, pp. 106-177.

[2] Chateau, J., R. Dellink and E. Lanzi (2014), “An Overview of the OECD ENV-Linkages Model: Version 3”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 65, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5jz2qck2b2vd-en.

[5] Cottom, J. et al. (2022), “Spatio-temporal quantification of plastic pollution origins and transportation (SPOT)” University of Leeds, UK, https://plasticpollution.leeds.ac.uk/toolkits/spot/.

[10] Ellen Macarthur Foundation (2017), The New Plastics Economy:Rethinking The Future Of Plastics & Catalysing Action.

[16] Evangeliou, N. et al. (2020), “Atmospheric transport is a major pathway of microplastics to remote regions”, Nature Communications, Vol. 11/1, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17201-9.

[3] Geyer, R., J. Jambeck and K. Law (2017), “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made”, Science Advances, Vol. 3/7, p. e1700782, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700782.

[7] Gómez-Sanabria, A. et al. (2018), “Carbon in global waste and wastewater flows – its potential as energy source under alternative future waste management regimes”, Advances in Geosciences, Vol. 45, pp. 105-113, https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-45-105-2018.

[6] Jambeck, J. et al. (2015), “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean”, Science, Vol. 347/6223, pp. 768-771, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1260352.

[12] Lau, W. et al. (2020), “Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution”, Science, Vol. 369/6510, pp. 1455-1461, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba9475.

[11] Lebreton, L. and A. Andrady (2019), “Future scenarios of global plastic waste generation and disposal”, Palgrave Communications, Vol. 5/1, p. 6, https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-018-0212-7.

[14] Lebreton, L., M. Egger and B. Slat (2019), “A global mass budget for positively buoyant macroplastic debris in the ocean”, Scientific Reports, Vol. 9/1, p. 12922, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49413-5.

[13] Lebreton, L. et al. (2017), “River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans”, Nature Communications, Vol. 8/1, https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15611.

[1] OECD (2022), Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/de747aef-en.

[4] Ryberg, M. et al. (2019), “Global environmental losses of plastics across their value chains”, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Vol. 151, p. 104459, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.104459.

[8] SystemIQ and the Pew Charitable Trust (2020), Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution, https://www.systemiq.earth/breakingtheplasticwave/.


← 1. Circularity is calculated as the ratio between secondary plastics (29 Mt) and plastic waste (353 Mt) in 2019, which was 8% in 2019.

← 2. Plastic leakage refers to plastics that enter terrestrial and aquatic environments; whereas pollution is broader and refers to all emissions and risks resulting from plastics production, use, waste management and leakage.

← 3. 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.

← 4. Solid synthetic polymers smaller than 5 mm in diameter.

← 5. Including Geyer, Jambeck and Law (2017[3]), Jambeck et al. (2015[6]), Ryberg et al. (2019[4]), Gómez-Sanabria et al. (2018[7]), Ellen Macarthur Foundation (2017[10]), SystemIQ and the Pew Charitable Trust (2020[8]), Borrelle et al. (2020[9]), Lebreton and Andrady (2019[11]).

← 6. Collaborators include: 1) experts from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) who led the research underlying a study by Ryberg et al. (2019[4]); 2) experts from the University of Leeds who contributed to Lau et al. (2020[12]); 3) Laurent Lebreton, who wrote various research papers on plastic waste generation and leakage (Lebreton et al., 2017[13]; Lebreton, Egger and Slat, 2019[14]; Lebreton and Andrady, 2019[11]), and contributed to the leakage estimations in Borrelle et al. (2020[9]); and 4) Nikolaos Evangeliou from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), who developed the Evangeliou et al. (2020[16]) article.

← 7. GHG emissions from the plastics lifecycle are calculated in ENV-Linkages. The analysis of biobased plastics is based on the CGE-Box model (Britz and van der Mensbrugghe, 2018[15]). The LCA analysis is based on a methodology developed by the Sustainable Systems Engineering Group of Ghent University. See Annex A for additional information on these methodologies.

← 8. The Baseline scenario reflects expected trends to 2060 in several key socio-economic variables, including demographic, urbanisation and globalisation trends, and also includes the effects of government policies implemented until 2019 on these projected trends. Policies that were still under discussion in 2022 are excluded from the Baseline scenarios presented in this report.

← 9. Primary (or virgin) plastics are manufactured from fossil-based (e.g. crude oil) or biobased (e.g. corn, sugarcane, wheat) feedstock that has never been used or processed before.

← 10. This refers to the three non-OECD Asian regions (China, India and Other non-OECD Asia), i.e. Asia, excluding Japan and Korea.

← 11. It is important to note that due to the lack of robust research on the share of mismanaged waste that is lost to the environment, there are large uncertainties in these estimates (uncertainty ranges are presented in brackets).

← 12. Investment is in itself not a cost as it generates value added and contributes to GDP. But less productive investment in waste management at the expense of other expenditures forces shifts in the economy towards less productive activities and these shifts are on balance costly.


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.

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

Note by Turkey
The information in this document with reference to “Cyprus” relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of the United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus issue”.

Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union
The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

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