What a waste

A study published in the journal Science Advances and reported in this weekend’s press, shows that the US and UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other major country. The  study, published in the journal Science Advances, used World Bank data on waste generation in 217 countries. It focused on the US and used additional data on littering and illegal dumping within the country and on contamination by exported plastic, which is likely to be dumped rather than recycled.

The researchers found the US produced the most plastic waste by World Bank reckoning, at 34m tonnes in 2016, but the total increased to 42m tonnes when the additional data was considered. India and China were second and third, but their large populations meant their figures for per capita plastic waste was less than 20% of that of US consumers.

“The US is 4% of the world’s population, yet its produces 17% of its plastic waste,” said Nick Mallos at the Ocean Conservancy and one of the study authors. “The US needs to play a much bigger role in addressing the global plastic pollution crisis.” He added that only 9% of US plastic waste was recycled in 2016.

According to a House of Commons Library Briefing, ‘Plastic waste’ by Louise Smith published on 21 September 2020, in the UK it is estimated that five million tonnes of plastic is used every year, nearly half of which is packaging. The UK Government publishes regular statistics on the amount of plastic packaging produced and on its final treatment, although some of these statistics have been questioned for their accuracy both by the National Audit Office and WWF-UK.

The latest plastic recycling rates for EU members in 2017 showed that the UK’s rate was higher than the EU average of 41.9%, but below levels in some larger Member States including Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

You can read the Commons Library Briefing at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8515/CBP-8515.pdf

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