Plastic producers have tried to make us think that individuals can solve pollution by improving our recycling and shopping habits. A new study makes it clear why that’s their tactic. Just 20 companies are responsible for more than half of the world’s trashed single-use plastic.
The Plastic Waste Makers Index, published Tuesday by the Australian foundation Minderoo, is a comprehensive account of the companies manufacturing plastic that goes into disposable products. It shows that energy giants and chemical conglomerates are among the 20 companies that created 55% of global plastic waste. Expanding the view just a bit further, the report also shows that just 100 businesses account for more than 90% of trashed plastic.
The top contributor to throwaway plastics, the report found, is Exxon. In 2019, it contributed 5.9 million metric tons of plastic that got thrown away. In close second and third were the world’s two largest chemical companies, U.S.-based Dow and China’s Sinopec. They created 5.5 million metric tons and 5.3 million metric tons of the stuff respectively.
The research also showed that recycled plastic account for just 2% of the world’s disposable plastics. The vast majority are made from virgin materials, meaning new fossil fuels were extracted to create them.