With each passing day, we come closer to environmental collapse. Environmental problems, such as global warming and the hole in the ozone layer, are a threat to human life, as well as a danger to the permanence of any living being on planet Earth. But one of the most worrying environmental problems is pollution, and its consequences.
Of these, one form that is more evident is the pollution of plastic that is discarded in nature. The material can take up to 600 years to decompose in the environment.
And this big problem with disposable plastics doesn’t come out of nowhere. Before these wastes are disposed of in landfills or burned, someone is paid to produce them and they earn money by making this pollution, which is inevitable for human existence.
It is now known who these people are. According to an unprecedented report, the researchers built an index identifying the top 100 polymer producers in the world that manufacture disposable plastics that end up in waste.
Some researchers who have studied this problem have sought to identify which brands are the worst contributors to plastic pollution from packaging. However, plastic itself starts its life elsewhere.
The new analysis, which was done by researchers at the Minderoo Foundation, which is an Australian philanthropic organization, went deeper into the plastic supply chain. The analysis looked at the companies themselves that manufacture the polymers that comprise single-use plastics, such as bottles and other disposables.
The researchers focused on “virgin” polymers that are obtained at low prices from fossil fuels. They represent 98% of all polymer production. With this, they were able to identify approximately 1200 production facilities globally. They make five of the leading single-use plastic polymers. They are: polypropylene (PP), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
According to the researchers, these 1200 facilities are owned and operated by approximately 300 different companies. And the top 100 are by far the biggest contributors to the overall problem producing approximately 90% of all disposable plastic waste that is generated globally.
And among these, the top 20 occupy the center of the crisis. These 20 polymer-producing companies, which are led by American companies ExxonMobil and Dow, with China’s Sinopec in third place, account for about 55% of disposable plastic waste worldwide. Altogether this is more than 130 million metric tons of waste in 2019 alone.
These three biggest companies alone manufacture about 16% of this. Each of them produces more than five million metric tons of waste.
“Today, regulation is largely aimed at tens of thousands of companies that sell finished products using disposable plastics. Improvements at this stage would cascade throughout the supply chain, with a disproportionate impact on plastic circularity and pollution,” the authors wrote.
“With the Waste Plastic Manufacturers Index as an essential baseline, policy makers, financial services companies and industry can create the steps necessary to move us towards a sustainable future.” President of the United States, Al Gore.