As the war on plastic picks up pace around the world, manufacturers of some single-use plastic products are bracing for a big hit as the tide turns against them. Primary plastic production has grown from two million metric tons in 1950 to over 320 million metric tons annually, an amount that’s expected to double in the next 20 years. Packaging is the largest segment, accounting for 40% of plastic usage. Much of that is made up of single-use items that do not get recycled. Researchers say only 9% of plastics get recycled globally. In contrast, the recycling rate is 58% for paper and 70-90% for iron and steel. What’s more, most of the plastic packaging that is recycled is usually converted into a lower-quality plastic that is not recyclable again.
Since so little gets recycled and about 80% ends up in a landfill or the environment, plastic waste is now the source of a major pollution problem, with 8 million tons finding its way into the world’s oceans each year. It’s becoming such a pressing issue that governments and businesses have stepped up the war on plastic, and are taking the scope of that fight beyond supermarket bags. Single-use plastic utensils, bottles, and food containers are targets going forward . . .