of plastic are used primarily in a single application (e.g. polyethylene in Supply Chain”, ciltuk.uk/portals/0/documents/pd/seedcornwong.pdf.
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This Policy Paper comprises the Background Report prepared by the OECD for the G7 Environment, Energy and Oceans Ministers. It provides an overview of current plastics production and use, the environmental impacts that this is generating and identifies the reasons for currently low plastics recycling rates, as well as what can be done about it.DisclaimersThis paper is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and the arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.This document and any map included herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.For Israel, change is measured between 1997-99 and 2009-11. The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law. CopyrightYou can copy, download or print OECD content for your own use, and you can include excerpts from OECD publications, databases and multimedia products in your own documents, presentations, blogs, websites and teaching materials, provided that suitable acknowledgment of OECD as source and copyright owner is given. All requests for public or commercial use and translation rights should be submitted to rights@oecd.org. Requests for permission to photocopy portions of this material for public or commercial use shall be addressed directly to the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) at info@copyright.com or the Centre français d™exploitation du droit de copie (CFC) at contact@cfcopies.com.Image credits: ImagineStock Shutterstock (cover); Menzl Guenter / Shutterstock (p. b)© OECD 2018ISSN 2309-7841Authorised for publication by Rodolfo Lacy, Director, Environment Directorate

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 2 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 1. Plastics: P roduction, uses , and benefits to society 1. Plastics are a remarkable family of materials that have gathered attention recently due to their ubiquity in the global economy, the low material recovery rates that they currently achieve , and the environmental impacts associated with current disposal methods. 2. Although early forms of plastics were already in existence during the mid -19th century, plastics other than Bakeli te were largely unknown prior to 1950. Since then, plastics have rapidly become one of the most commonplace materials on the planet. In 2015, global plastics production reached 407 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) (Figure 1) , making it more than the product ion of paper (400 Mtpa), fish (200 Mtpa), and aluminium (57 Mtpa) 1,2,3. If production continues to grow at similar rates, plastics production will reach 1 600 Mtpa in 2050 4. 3. The rapid growth of plastics production and use is largely due to the unique prop erties of the material. Plastics have a high strength -to-weight ratio, can be easily shaped into a wide variety of forms, are impermeable to liquids , and are highly resistant to physical and chemical degradation. Plastics can also be produced at relatively low cost. It is these properties that have led to the substitution of traditional materials (e.g. concrete, glass, metals, wood, natural fibres, and paper) by plastics in many applications. Figure 1. Global plastics production: 1950 to 2015 Source : Geyer, R., J. Jambeck and K. Law (2017), fiProduction, use, and fate of all plastics ever madefl, Science Advances , Vol. 3/7, p. e1700782, http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700782 . 4. Plastics are a diver se set of materials with specific chemical and physical properties. At least eight major polymer types are widely used 5, and a range of chemical additives are introduced at the manufacturing stage in order to improve polymer performance. The diversity of plastics has important implications for their end of life management. In

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 3 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 particular, it means that the issues that hinder material collection, sorting, and recovery can differ substantially across polymers. 5. The versatility of plastics has led to their use in almost all major product categories (Figure 2) . Plastics packaging is the largest application by weight, but plastics are also used widely in the textile, consumer goods, transport, and construction sectors. Some polymers of plastic are used primarily i n a single application (e.g. polyethylene in packaging) while others are used more widely (e.g. polypropylene) . This distinction also has implications for end -of-life plastics management: developing effective sorting and recycling technologies is likely to be simpler for polymers used in a narrower range of applications. Figure 2. Global plastics use by polymer and sector Note : The polymer breakdown for each product category has been translated on a proportional basis from 2015 production data. Polyester, polyamide, and acrylic (PPA) fibres are assigned exclusively to the textiles sector following Geyer, Jambeck, and Law (2017 [1] ). Source : Geyer, R., J. Jambeck and K. Law (2017), fiProduction, use, and fate of all plastics ever madefl, Science Advances , Vol. 3/7, p. e1700782, http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700782 . 6. The widespread use o f plastics has generated a number of benefits for society and for the environment. Plastics are often used to protect or preserve foodstuffs and, in doing so, help to reduce food waste. Plastics are also an important input in vehicles, where their relative ly light weight results in lower fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Plastics are widely used in infrastructure applications, where their impermeability and durability can lead to water savings in urban areas. Finally, the use of plastics rather than ma terials derived from biomass (e.g. wood and paper) in a range of applications could slow land -cover change and biodiversity loss 6. 2. The environmental side effects of plastics production and use 7. The increasing pervasiveness of plastics has not been without drawbacks. The production and disposal of plastics is responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and, when poorly managed, generates plastics pollution in the natural environment. In 050100 150 Annual waste generation (million tonnes) LDPE, LLPDE PET HDPE PP PS PVC PUR PPA Other

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 4 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 addition, the loss of natural resources resulting from current systems of waste management represents a missed economic opportunity . For example, i t is estimated that 95% of the material value of used plastic packaging , or USD 80 – 120 billion , is lost annually .7 Greenhouse gas emissions 8. Traditional plastics production involves the transformation of petroleum or natural gas into their constituent monomers. This process is highly energy -intensive, and was estimated to account for 400 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (around 1% of the global total) in 2012 8. 9. The fossil fuel feedstock used in plastics production also accounts for 4 – 8% of global oil and gas production 9,10 and this share could increase further in the future 11. The hydrocarbon molecules that are bound into the structure of plastics are ini tially inert, but release carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases when incinerated. Plastics pollution 10. The proliferation of plastics use, in combination with poor end -of-life waste management, has resulted in widespread, persistent plastics pollution. Around 6 300 million tonnes of plastics waste are thought to have been generated between 1950 and 2015, of which only 9% were recycled, and 12% incinerated, leaving nearly 80% to accumulate in landfills or the natural environment 12. Plastic pollution is present in all the world™s major ocean basins, including remote islands, the poles and the deep seas, and an a dditional 5 to 13 million tonnes are introduced every year 13,14. 11. Modelling suggests that around 10% of global plastics waste generation (or 30 Mt) was mismanaged in 2010 15,16. G7 countries are thought to account for less than 2% of this material: around half originates in ten large emerging economies ( Figure 3) . This highlights the importance of improving waste collection services in middle – and low -income countries.

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 6 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 3. The environmental side effects of plastics can be addressed in several ways 15. Sev eral approaches are available to address the environmental side effects of rapidly growing plastics production, use, and disposal. Changes in p roduct design , such as through the use of alternative materials in the place of plastics, could reduce the produ ction, use, and disposal of plastics in the first instance. Changes in design practices , such as through product light -weighting , could also help to prevent the generation of plastics waste 25. Shifting towards bio -based or biodegradable plastics could reduc e the adverse environmental impacts of plastics more directly by reducing their environmental footprint. Better waste management systems , by facilitating higher waste collection and recycling rates, would allow waste plastics to be captured before they beg in creating problems in the natural environment. Clean up and remediation activities , such as beach clean -ups and technology to collect plastics from ocean s, would allow the removal of plastics already in the natural environment. 16. Each of these approaches has considerable potential, as well as a set of associated risks and costs . The use of alternative materials in the place of plastics can reduce the use of plastics, but may magnify environmental burdens elsewhere. Substituting away from plastics may also negate the use -phase energy savings ( in transport for example ) that plastics can bring in the first place. Shifting to bio -based or biodegradable plastics may also have unintended consequences. In particular, e nhanced biodegradability can increase the disp ersion of microplastic fragments in the environment if degradation is incomplete 26. Finally, clean up and remediation activities can come at a significant cost and are unlikely to be effective at addressing microplastic pollution. 17. Higher waste collection a nd recycling rates are not without problems, but have the twin advantages of allowing the continued realisation of the beneficial aspects of plastics use, while also addressing the associated adverse environmental side effects. Higher recycling rates, to t he extent that they are driven by the emergence of an economically sustainable recycled plastics industry, could also become a source of long -term job creation 27. 18. The greenhouse gas footprint of recycled plastics is a fraction of that of virgin plastics (Figure 4) , and high quality waste management systems reduce the risk of plastics leaking into the environment. The development of better waste management systems can also be seen as a form of fifuture -proofingfl. Plastics production and use is projected to increase significantly in coming decades, and some proportion of this material will inevitably make its way into the environment unless waste management systems improve. 19. A large number of life -cycle assessments (LCAs) have been carried out on the relative e nvironmental impacts of various options for end -of-life plastics management. Several recent meta -analyses of this body of work unambiguously conclude that plastics recycling has a significantly smaller greenhouse gas footprint than plastics incineration or landfilling 28,29,30. Around three quarters of the individual LCA studies assessed in WRAP 31 found that the global warming potential associated with plastics recycling was, at a

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 7 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 minimum, half of that associated with incineration or landfilling 32. The displacement of virgin plastics by their recycled equivalents is one important reason for the relative desirability of plastics recycling. Figure 4 s hows the energy intensity of virgin and recycled plastics production. Figure 4. Relative energy intensi ty of virgin and recycled plastics production Not e: Data is for plastic resins only. Source : Wong, C. (2009), fiA Study of Plastic Recycling Supply Chain 2010 A Study of Plastic Recycling Supply Chainfl, https://www.ciltuk.org.uk/portals/0/documents/pd/seedcornwong.pdf (accessed on 28 March 2018). 20. The LCA literature for plastics focuses mostly on environmental indicators such as global warming potential, energy use, and water use. Less attention has been directed towards other environmental impact categories such as those associated with marine plastic pollution. Despite the lack of empirical evidence, recycling is likely to be just as effective as alternative waste treatment options Œ landfilling or incin eration Œ in reducing the flow of plastics waste into the environment: in each case, initial waste collection is a prerequisite for further treatment 33. 4. Low recycling rates and limited market share highlight the poor functioning of markets for recycled plas tics 21. The dysfunctional character of markets for recycled plastics manifests itself in several ways. Market volumes and liquidity are limited, trade flows are small as a proportion of total plastics waste generation, and market prices are highly volatile . Glob al plastics recycling rates, and the share of recycled production in total plastics output, also remain low . Recycling rates 22. Despite recent efforts, plastic recycling continues to be an economically marginal activity. Current recycling rates are though t to be 14 – 18% at the global level. The 020406080100 Virgin plastic Recycled plastic Energy use (MJ/kg) Production Local transport Export transport

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 8 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 remainder of plastic waste is either incinerated (24%), or disposed of in landfill or the natural environment (58 – 62%) 34. Plastics recycling rates are substantially lower than those for other widely used materials . Recycling rates for major industrial metals Œ steel, aluminium, copper, etc. Œ and paper are thought to exceed 50% 35,36. 23. Plastic recycling rates vary significantly across different countries 37, waste streams 38, and polymer types. Some polymers are more widel y recycled than others. Recycling rates for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high -density polyethylene (HDPE) commonly exceed 10%, while those for polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP) are closer to zero 39. Recycling rates in the European Union averag e 30%, and are thought to be considerably higher in some EU Member States 40. Recycling rates in other high -income countries are typically i n the order of 10% ( Figure 5 ). Recycling rates in low – to middle -income countries are largely unknown, but may be significant in situations where there is a well -established and effective informal sector. Data indicates that plastics recycling rates may be approaching 20 – 40% in some developing -country cities 41. Figure 5. Recycling rates in selected high income countries Source : OECD (2018), Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics: Trends, Prospects and Policy Responses , OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.178 7/9789264301016 -en. Recycled plastics market share 24. Production statistics for recycled plastics are largely unknown. However, data provided in Geyer, Jambeck and Law 42 allow some rough approximations to be made. A global plastics recycling rate of 18%, and plastics waste generation of 258 Mtpa 43 (both resins only) translate into approximately 46 million tonnes of recycled plastics production per year. This represents 12% of total global plastics production (Figure 6) , but is likely to be an upper estimate because, in some cases, the material that is reported as firecycledfl may refer only to the material diverted towards recycling: some proportion of this is likely to becom e recycling residues that require disposal. 0%10% 20% 30% 40% 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Plastics recycling rate EUUSA Australia Japan

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Organisation for Economic Co -operation and Development 9 BACKGROUND REPORT: IMPROVING PLASTICS M ANAGEMENT © OECD 2018 Figure 6. Estimated global market share of virgin and recycled plastics Note: Data are for resins only. Source : Geyer, R., J. Jambeck and K. Law (2017), fiProduction, use, and fate of all plastics ever madefl, Science Advances , Vol. 3/7, p. e1700782, http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700782 5. Trade in plastics waste is limited and increasingly hindered by trade restrictions 25. Allowing waste plastics (and other materials) to flow towards jurisdictions with a comparative cost advantage in sorting or recycling can help to boost global recycling rates, while also generating increased shared economic benefits and improving environmental outcomes 44. Despite that, global trade in plastics waste remains small relative to overall plastics waste generation. Of the 300 million tonnes of plastics waste generated in 2015 45, only around 14 million tonnes (or 4%) was exported outside the country of origin 46,47. 26. Imports of plastics waste are concentrated in a small number of countries. People™s Republic of China was the largest market for plastics waste in 2016, accounting for around 8 million tonnes (or 60%) of global imports 48. The next largest importers were Hon g Kong (2 million tonnes) 49, Germany (0.5 million tonnes), and the United States (0.4 million tonnes). 27. The largest exporters of plastics waste to China in 2016 were Hong Kong 50, the United States, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom (Figure 7) , with each shipping between 0.5 million tonnes and 1.3 million tonnes of material. France, Canada, and Italy shipped 0.2, 0.1, and 0.05 million tonnes respectively. Taken together, G7 countries accounted for around half of all the exports of plastics waste to China i n 2016. The monetary value of this trade amounted to USD 0.9 billion 51. Virgin plastic Recycled plastic

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