Saudi Aramco is one of the top five producers of single-use plastics waste, according to research.
A report by the Minderoo Foundation has published an index of the 100 companies which it estimates create 90% of all single-use plastic waste generated globally, and called for them to do more to move towards a circular economy.
The Plastic Waste Makers Index report ranked polymer producers and put Saudi Aramco in fifth place, generating an estimated total of 4.3m metric tons of single-use plastic waste in 2019.
Top of the list of biggest single-use plastic waste producers was ExxonMobil, according to the report, with 5.9m metric tons.
According to the research, 20 polymer manufacturing companies accounted for more than half of single-use plastic waste globally in 2019.
The report said any decisions to continue making virgin, rather than recycled, polymers would have “massive repercussions on how much waste is collected, managed and leaks into the environment”.
There has been a collective industry failure to transition away from fossil fuel-based feedstocks, according to the study, which said recycled polymers account for only 2% of total output.
It estimated global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow by over 30% in the next five years and warned the planned expansion of virgin polymer production capacity threatened to overwhelm hopes of a circular plastics economy.
The report said: “Polymer producers represent an extraordinary leverage opportunity in the fight against plastic pollution, as the ‘gatekeepers’ of plastic production – particularly because they are relatively few in number.”
It made a number of recommendations including that producers should disclose levels of virgin versus recycled polymer production and their associated single-use plastic waste “footprint”.
They should set commitments to reduce reliance on fossil fuel feedstocks and shift to circular recycled polymers, as well as commit to using circularity measurement and reporting tools.
The report also said other companies in the supply chain shared responsibility for moving to a circular plastic economy.
It called for long-term forward contracts for recycled polymers and products, saying this would create the stability needed for investment in recycling infrastructure.
“Contracts should also account for the full cost of collecting, sorting and recycling waste, and accept the price premium over virgin polymer and plastics,” the report recommended.
Designing plastic products for recyclability was also key, as well as creating common standards for recycled material quality, while redesigning packaging, scaling re-use and using substitute materials would all help reducing single use plastic in the short term, the study found.
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