Analysis released reveals the source and true scale of the global plastic waste crisis. It shows just 20 companies – supported by a small group of financial backers – are responsible for producing over 50 percent of ‘throwaway’ single-use plastic that ends up as waste worldwide1. Published by Minderoo Foundation, the ‘Plastic Waste Makers Index’ has been developed with partners including Wood Mackenzie, and experts from the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute among others2.

Made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, single-use plastics are the most commonly discarded type of plastic, too frequently becoming pollution. Environmental campaigners have previously placed the blame for plastic waste at the feet of packaged goods brands such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. But now a small group of petrochemical companies who manufacture ‘polymers’ – the building block of plastics – is revealed as the source of the crisis:

  • Twenty companies are the source of half of all single-use plastic thrown away globally. ExxonMobil tops the list – contributing 5.9 million tonnes to global plastic waste – closely followed by US chemicals company Dow and China’s Sinopec. One hundred companies are behind 90 per cent of global single-use plastic production.
  • Close to 60 per cent of the commercial finance funding single-use production comes from just 20 global banks. A total of US$30 billion of loans from these institutions – including Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America among others – has gone to the sector since 2011.
  • Twenty 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 single-use plastic polymer producers. Of this, US$10 billion is directly linked to single-use polymer production.

“The plastification of our oceans and the warming of our planet are amongst the greatest threats humanity and nature have ever confronted,” explains Dr Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman and Co-Founder, Minderoo Foundation. “Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis unless government, business and financial leaders act in our children’s and grandchildren’s interests.

“This means: stop making new plastic and start using recycled plastic waste, it means re-allocate capital from virgin producers to those using recycled materials, and importantly, it means redesign plastic so it does no harm and is compostable, so like every other element, it returns to its original molecules, not nano-plastics. And we must act now. Because while we bicker, the oceans are getting trashed with plastic and the environment is getting destroyed by global warming,” Dr Forrest said.

“Tracing the root causes of the plastic waste crisis empowers us to help solve it,” adds Al Gore, former US Vice President. “The trajectories of the climate crisis and the plastic waste crisis are strikingly similar and increasingly intertwined. As awareness of the toll of plastic pollution has grown, the petrochemical industry has told us it’s our own fault and has directed attention toward behavior change from end-users of these products, rather than addressing the problem at its source.”

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Photo Credit: Caroline Power.
  1. Download the report on this website.
  2. A full list of the analytical partners contributing the analysis include: Wood Mackenzie, Planet Tracker, Profundo and Neural Alpha. Academics from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics, and Stockholm Environment Institute also contributed to development of analysis and the report. KPMG undertook limited assurance of the methods and results presented.