plastic waste litters a field
28 Jul

Twenty Firms Produce 55 Percent of the World's Plastic Waste

One-hundred companies are responsible for more than 90 percent of all global plastic waste, according to new research from The Plastic Waste Makers index. And twenty of those companies are responsible for a whopping 55 percent of the world’s plastic waste. 

This staggering statistic shows that the world’s environmental future is currently at the mercy of a handful of corporations, the majority of which do not have great track records. Single-use plastics are made from fossil fuels, and as the world moves to fuel transport and energy generation with renewable sources, fossil fuel companies are quickly transitioning more into plastic production.

“Since most plastic is made from oil and gas — especially fracked gas — the production and consumption of plastic are becoming a significant driver of the climate crisis,” environmentalist and former US vice-president Al Gore said. “The plastic waste that results — particularly from single-use plastics — is piling up in landfills, along roadsides, and in rivers that carry vast amounts into the ocean.” 

Fossil fuel companies are continuing to expand the production of single-use plastics, and according to The Guardian, the global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow more than 30 percent. And by 2050, plastics are expected to account for five to ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions. 

A stark disconnect exists between the promises of these companies and the actions in the boardroom. Only two percent of single-use plastics created in 2019 were made from recycled plastics. And many of these top companies have marketed their dedication to sustainability — but nearly all of them have plans to increase their production of virgin plastics, not reduce it. 

“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest and most critical threats facing our planet,” said Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, chairman of the Minderoo Foundation.“The current outlook is set to get worse and we simply cannot allow these producers of fossil fuel-derived plastics to continue as they have done without check. With our oceans choking and plastic impacting our health, we need to see firm intervention from producers, governments, and the world of finance to break the cycle of inaction.”

These companies are not the only ones to blame. They have received massive amounts of financial backing from 20 of the world’s largest banks. Since 2011, these banks, topped by Barclays, HSBC, and Bank of America, have donated nearly $30 billion to single-use plastic polymer production. 

Twenty of the world’s top asset managers, like the Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Capital Group, currently hold over $300 billion in shares of the parent companies that produce single-use plastic polymers. 

Comparatively, these banks and asset managers only share a fraction of these funds with companies that are actively trying to shift to a more sustainable, recycled plastic economy. 

When individual consumers pledge to stop using single-use plastics, they are making a small difference for the environment. But single-use plastic companies are continuing to expand their operations, posing a massive threat to the environment. Daily behavior change is no longer enough to combat plastic pollution — real effort must be made to put pressure on these companies, as well as on their financial backers and their governments. 

There are steps you can take to combat the use of single-use plastics. You can start by getting involved in sustainable policy by signing a petition like this one or engage your congressperson with a letter asking for sustainable policy.

Your actions can present a larger impact on your community as well. Research businesses in your town that adhere to sustainable practices and show your support for them such as telling others in your network about them. You can also attend or organize a beach or park cleanup, collect discarded plastics and bring them to your local recycling facility. 

And as always, be sure to shop at businesses that remain committed to sustainable practices! 

At Golden Arrow, we made it our mission to make the packaging industry more sustainable. Our molded fiber packaging solutions are made from completely sustainable materials, removing the need for single-use plastics in any of our products.