8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastic was produced between 1950 and 2015. 9% of this production was recycled, 12% incinerated, 49% sent to landfill or thrown into nature, and 30% is still being used or is “trapped” in buildings. If the current trend in terms of plastic production and waste management does not change, some 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will end up in landfill sites or nature by 2050.
Plastic recycling worldwide
India is the country that recycles its plastic waste the most, with a 60% rate. It is followed by South Korea (45%) and the European Union (30%). In the United States, the plastic recycling rate is only 9%.
Recycling and regulations: different approaches, the same trend
The stiffening of recycling regulations is a universal trend. The European Union now offers its member states a strategic framework for them to recycle 55% of their plastic waste by 2030. In early 2018, China launched a national program requiring public institutions and companies in 46 cities to sort and separate their waste by 2020. In the United States, while there is no federal law requiring citizens to recycle, the states have their own legislation; they sometimes join forces with NGOs to set up recycling programs. In the same way, in Japan, local governments organize and promote waste sorting among inhabitants. As a result, a fifth of the plastic waste generated by this country can currently be recycled.
* Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, etc.)
Sources: “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made,” Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law – July 2017.
“The New Plastics Economy,” Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, 2017. Plastics Theme – Veolia – October 2017