The report was based on a global study conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which promotes recycling. The report shows that only 14 percent of plastic waste is recycled worldwide on a yearly basis.
And there is a lot of plastics in the world’s oceans, says the report. This non-biodegradable waste washes up on beaches and remote islands, sometimes traveling for thousands of miles before ending up back on land. It is in the stomachs of over half of the world’s sea turtles and just about all of our seabirds.
It is so bad, that if it were bagged up, the garbage pile would make a veritable barricade between us and the sea. Around $80 to $120 billion worth of plastic packaging, that’s 95 percent, is lost to an economy after a single use.
And according to the foundation, if we continue to produce plastics at the same rate we are doing now and fail to find a way to recycle them, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050. That is only 35 years from now.
At least eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, that comes to around one dump truck load every minute, says the report, which included analysis by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. The latest estimates put the amount of plastics in the oceans today at 150 million tons.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is proposing creating a circular economy for plastics, according to Fortune. Called the new Plastics Economy, there are three key platforms: Improving the recycling efforts globally and creating an effective after-use economy.
The second platform would work to reduce the leakage of plastic waste into the environment. Thirdly, removing plastics from fossil fuels, or in other words, making use of innovation in finding ways to create plastics without petroleum products.
The World Economic Forum’s Dominic Waughray said in a press release, “This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy.”
World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland
Interestingly, the report came out a day before the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland’s highest city. This is the 43rd annual Davos meeting and is being held from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24, according to RT.com.
While the meeting is centered on what the WEF calls “the fourth industrial revolution,” referring to the boom in high-tech areas such as robotics and biotechnology, and its effect on the widening gap between the haves and have-nots of this world, the meeting is seen by many as nothing more than the powerful and wealthy gathering to talk about global economic problems they created, according to RT.com.
However, The plastic situation is fairly low-tech and over 100 years old. As the Washington Post puts it, we’re still dealing with the same problem with plastics that we have discussed in a few “previous revolutions.”
The report, “The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics,” comes from interviews with over 180 experts and analysis of over 200 studies on “the plastic economy.”