A new report signed by Minderoo shows that only a few large companies, powered by a few banks, are behind the manufacture and financing of single-use plastic globally.
Reassemble the chain
Single-use plastic, convenient and inexpensive to produce, accounts for more than a third of all plastic manufactured each year (130 million tonnes per year the latest news was). Of this sample, almost 98% of this material is made from virgin fossil fuels, and less than 9% is ultimately recycled after use. The rest is either burned, releasing toxic fumes into the air, or thrown into the environment. Here, plastic can decompose in soils over extremely long periods of time. It can also obstruct waterways and eventually integrate the oceans.
For all these reasons, single-use plastic is a scourge that must be fought. But against whom should we act?
As part of a new report, Minderoo, an Australia-based nonprofit campaigning for cleaner oceans, supported by academics from Oxford and the Stockholm Environment Institute, traced thehe supply chain for these plastics to focus on companies that produce the first polymers, the petrochemicals that make up single-use plastic.
“To date, companies that use these materials for their products are largely responsible for the single-use plastic problem. But we had to go up the chain to find the custodians of plastic production ”, writes the report.
A handful of companies and banks
According to the report, more than half of the single-use plastic in the world is made by around 20 large companies. Two American companies, Exxon Mobil and Dow, followed by Sinopec, a Chinese petrochemical giant, together account for around 16% of the world production of polymers intended for single-use plastic waste.
These large polymer producers are also supported by global financial institutions. The report estimates that twenty of the world’s largest banks, such as Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America or JPMorgan Chase, have loaned nearly US $ 30 billion for the production of single-use plastic polymers over the past decade.
Always according to Minderoo, around 40% of the largest single-use plastic manufacturers are also partly owned by governments, including China and Saudi Arabia.
Over the next five years, global production of these virgin polymers from fossil fuels is expected to increase by more than 30%, we read. In view of these projections and the looming health disaster, Minderoo calls for real action on the part of the companies concerned, which will have to be supported by strong political decisions.
For its part, the American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry, called the report “misleading”. According to its representatives, replacing plastic packaging with other materials could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The group also points out that the Minderoo Foundation would be partly financed by the participation of its founder in a company which extracts iron ore. However, the mining industry is often criticized for its environmental impact.