Rob Kaplan, Forbes, July 27, 2021
Google GOOG +0.1% teamed up with AFARA and IHS Markit INFO -0.7% to bring big data analytics to the plastic pollution crisis. Their important new study will be released later this summer, but we all recently got a sneak preview via the executive summary and the findings reveal critical and actionable insights.
A key finding, which readers of this column will not be surprised to see highlighted, is that investment is crucial to creating a circular economy for plastics and that there are significant opportunities for investors, particularly at the nexus of climate and plastics.
For the uninitiated, the plastic waste challenge is enormous and despite our best efforts, continues to grow. The numbers are overwhelming. The study highlights that 276 million metric tons of plastics are being produced annually and that the vast majority of this plastic (93%), comes from new plastic products made from petroleum. Only 7% are recovered and make their way back into the plastics supply chain as recycled material. And while the amount of recycled plastics reentering the economy are projected to more than triple by 2040, over the same period, 86% of plastics are projected to be landfilled, incinerated or leaked into the environment. That’s a huge circularity gap to fill.
Bottom line, think about it this way: without comprehensive and large-scale interventions, the concern grows that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.