Circular Economy


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Open Translation

PERTH: A report by the philanthropic Minderoo Foundation says 20 companies produce over 50 percent of all single-use plastic that ends up as waste and 100 are behind 90 percent of global single-use plastic production.

The ‘Plastic Waste-Makers Index’, topped by Exxon-Mobil, Dow and Sinotec, has been produced with the support of environmental research consultant Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute.

Over 130 million tonnes of single-use plastic ended up as waste in 2019 – almost all of which was burned, buried or dumped, including 25 million tonnes in the ocean or on land.

Australia and the US respectively produce the most single-use plastic waste with over 50 kilos per person per year. In China – the largest producer of single-use plastic by volume – it is 18 kgs a year per head while in India it is four kgs.

According to the report, environmental campaigners had previously placed the blame for plastic waste on packaged goods brands including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.

New research suggests the truce source is a small group of polymer producers and their financiers: Nearly 60 percent of the commercial finance for single-use production comes from just 20 global banks. Some US$30 billion from these institutions – including Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America – has gone to the sector since 2011.

Twenty asset managers – led by Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group – hold over US$300 billion in the parent companies of single-use plastic polymer producers. Of this, US$10 billion is directly linked to its production.

The report also reveals the scale of inaction by plastic producers and how they are compounding the existing throwaway plastic waste crisis:

• A 30 per cent increase in global throwaway plastic production is projected over the next five years;
• This growth in production will lead to an extra three trillion items of throwaway plastic waste by 2025 alone;
• Recycled plastic or feedstocks account for no more than two percent of global single-use plastic production, meaning 98 per cent of these plastics are produced from fuels;
• Plastic producers score badly in a best practice assessment of the move to circular-based forms of production necessary in addressing the crisis;
• The global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed down the price of oil, making fossil-fuel-based single-use plastics even more financially attractive.

“Tracing the root causes of the plastic waste crisis empowers us to help solve it,” commented Al Gore, former US vice president and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner. “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 behaviour change from end-users of these products, rather than addressing the problem at its source.”

The top 20 polymer producers by volume:

1 ExxonMobil
2 Dow
3 Sinopec
4 Indorama Ventures
5 Saudi Aramco
6 PetroChina
7 LyondellBasell
8 Reliance Industries
9 Braskem
10 Alpek SA de CV
11 Borealis
12 Lotte Chemical
14 Total
15 Jiangsu Hailun Petrochemical
16 Far Eastern New Century
17 Formosa Plastics Corporation
18 China Energy Investment Group
19 PTT
20 China Resources

“The plastification of our oceans and the warming of our planet are among the greatest threats humanity and nature have ever confronted,” explained Andrew Forrest, chairman and co-founder of the 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. 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,” he continued.

Top 20 polymer investors by shareholdings

1 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
2 People’s Republic of China
3 Emirate of Abu Dhabi
4 Ambani Family
5 Vanguard Group
6 Canopus International
7 BlackRock
8 Capital Group
9 Mr James Arthur Ratcliffe
10 East Step International Holdings
11 Zhejiang Rongsheng Holding Group
12 State of Qatar
13 Republic of India
14 State Street
15 Access Industries
16 Magna Resources Corp
17 Chang Gung Medical Foundation
19 Federation of Malaysia
20 PPH Polymer Products Holdings

The Minderoo Foundation was founded by Forrest and his wife Nicola in 2001 and he remains chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, a public company he began in 2003 and now one of the world’s main suppliers of iron ore.

Funded by Fortescue, the Minderoo report is calling for petrochemical companies to disclose their plastic waste footprint and commit to circular business models while investors only finance companies that use recycled plastic feedstocks.
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