Sustainable Development

Plastic waste: Here's what it could look like by 2060

A crumpled plastic bottle on grass

Plastic waste stems from many sources, including consumer products, construction and transport. Image: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Anna Fleck
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • According to recent estimates from the OECD, plastic waste is on course to triple by 2060.
  • Consumer products, construction and transport make some of the largest contributions to plastic waste.
  • Half is still set to go to landfill by that point.

Plastic waste is projected to triple by 2060, according to the latest forecasts by the OECD’s Global Plastics Outlook, rising from 353 million tonnes of waste in 2019 to 1,014 million tonnes in the next four decades. Two thirds of this is expected to be made up of packaging, consumer products and textiles. Plastic waste from construction and transport will also be significant.

Recycling rates are expected to improve in this time, rising from the 9 percent seen in 2019 to 17 percent in 2060. This will still be a lower share than landfilling and incineration, at 50 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

While population growth is one reason for the coming surge, another driver is economic growth. According to the report: "While OECD countries are projected to double their plastics use, emerging economies are expected to see much more significant increases, from a six-fold increase in Sub-Saharan Africa to a tripling in Asia." The report adds that despite such fast growth, OECD countries are still expected to be the biggest consumers of plastics on an average per capita basis.

As industries make an effort to become more sustainable, it is hoped that new technologies will be one means of lowering plastic intensity in the coming years.

A chart showing the estimated global plastic waste by waste management category
Global plastic waste is on the rise Image: Statista

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

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