20 Companies Produce 55% of World’s Plastic Waste, Report Reveals

20 Companies Produce 55% of World’s Plastic Waste, Report Reveals

Globally, only Twenty companies are responsible for producing plastic polymer that accounts for more than half of all the single-use plastic waste in the world. The new report, Plastic Waste Makers index, identifies those driving climate crisis with virgin polymer production.

The Plastic Waster Makers Index concludes the analysis by the Minderoo Foundation of Australia with partners including Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute. This report offers an unprecedented glimpse into the small number of petrochemicals companies, and their financial backers, generating almost all single-use plastic waste globally.

The Problem with Single Use Plastics

While Single Use Plastics are inexpensive and convenient, the convenience comes at a cost. Single-use plastic accounts for over a third of all plastic manufactured every year, and the majority of plastic thrown away – 130 million tonnes a year. What’s more alarming is that, almost 98 per cent of single-use plastic is made from virgin fossil fuels – plastic created without any recycled materials.

This plastic is turned into bags, bottles, takeaway cutlery, straws, packaging, disposable face masks and more. Most are used just once and discarded. Only about 9% of this plastic waste is recycled while the rest is buried, burnt, or dumped in our environment. 

The New Analysis

Until now, much of the blame for the single-use plastic problem has been placed on the companies who utilise it for their products. But its time, we move upstream to the original producers, not just of plastic but polymers.

The team of Plastic Waste Makers index analysed the end-to-end plastics supply chain to link single-use plastic waste back to the companies that first produce plastic polymers – the building blocks of all plastics; and the companies who finance it.

In this report, they have identified for the first time the companies who produce the polymers that account for the vast majority of single-use plastic waste globally.

Al Gore, the environmentalist and former US vice-president, said the groundbreaking analysis exposed how fossil fuel companies were rushing to switch to plastic production as two of their main markets – transport and electricity generation – were being decarbonised.

Top 20 Companies Producing Plastic Polymer

Top-20-Companies-Producing-Polymers-in-the-world
Graphic Credits: The Plastic Waste Makers Index Report

Key Findings of the Plastic Waste Makers Index Report

  • In 2019, just 20 companies were responsible for producing plastic polymer that accounts for more than half of all the single-use plastic waste in the world.
  • Together, the top 100 single-use polymer producers account share responsibility for more than 90 per cent of all global plastic waste. 
  • ExxonMobil and Dow – both based in the USA – top the list, followed by China-based Sinopec, with these three companies together accounting for 16 per cent of global production of polymers destined for single-use plastic waste.
  • Major global investors and banks are enabling the single-use plastics crisis.
    • Twenty institutional asset managers – led by US companies Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group – hold over US$300 billion worth of shares in the parent companies of these polymer producers, of which an estimated US$10 billion comes from the production of virgin polymers for single-use plastics.
    • Twenty of the world’s largest banks, including Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America, are estimated to have lent almost US$30 billion for the production of these polymers since 2011.
  • The 100 largest polymer producers all continue to rely almost exclusively on “virgin” (fossil-fuel-based) feedstocks. But, only 2% of single-use plastic produced in 2019 was from recycled plastic or bio-based feedstocks. 

The Report suggests that to stand any chance of ending the plastic waste crisis – and the negative impacts on our environment and health – we need these companies to produce polymers from sustainable materials, not virgin fossil fuels. In the next five years, global production of virgin single-use plastic polymers from fossil fuels is forecast to increase by over 30 per cent.

The report highlights the need to bring greater transparency to the plastics supply chain – to better understand its material and financial flows and its environmental impacts.

The Plastic Waste Makers Index Report 2021 - Download PDF

The Plastic Waste Makers Index Report