Downloadable Reports on Plastic Pollution from Around the World

Toward a Just, Toxic-Free World: Factsheet on Plastics, Waste-to-Energy Incineration & Zero Waste

“A report published by the Center for International Environmental Law in September 2017 revealed that 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. Further, researchers say that based on current projections, we will have produced 26 billion tons of plastic waste by 20501. Today, the world is already drowning in plastic waste, and countries—even the developed ones—have not been able to cope. For the longest time, wealthy countries have been exporting plastics to China. However, in 2018, China shut its doors to low-grade plastic waste imports to protect its borders. The move threw the global plastic recycling industry into chaos—exposing the loopholes of recycling.”

Published: July 2019

Authors: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, #breakfreefromplastic

Are Businesses Ready to Beat Plastic Pollution

“To highlight the pervasiveness of plastics and to ascertain responsibility for the proliferation of problematic plastic packaging in the environment, waste and brand audits were conducted in 250 sites across 15 cities in 18 Indian states in 21 days in May 2018. Participating groups conducted the audits in different sites such as public parks, water bodies, and resource recovery centres. Waste was classified into seven main categories (unbranded plastics, branded plastics, polystyrene, rubber, glass/metal, textile, and paper/cardboard), then measured by weight and volume. Random samples of branded plastics were further audited to record the brand and identify the manufacturer. They were also categorised into product types (food, household and personal care), and type of plastic packaging (single layer, multilayer/composites/laminates, polystyrene, expanded polystyrene, hard plastics, polyethylene, foil, and others). Our findings show that there is too much plastics — particularly low-value, disposable plastics—contaminating all of our habitats, from the mountains to the coasts.”

Published: June 2019

Authors: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, #breakfreefromplastic

No Time to Waste: Tackling the Plastic Pollution Crisis Before It's Too Late

“This report describes the environmental destruction, sickness, mortality, and damage to livelihoods that the plastic pollution crisis is causing. It outlines the problem – namely the huge recent increase in the production and distribution of single-use plastics, and its expansion across the globe to countries lacking the capacity to collect, manage and recycle waste. And it spells out the solutions. Current trajectories point to increased illness and unnecessary deaths, further harm to livelihoods and greater destruction of our environment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In this report we outline the roles and responsibilities of four groups we believe to be key to tackling the plastic pollution crisis.”

Published: May 2019

Authors: Fauna & Flora International, Institute of Development Studies, wasteaid, tearfund

Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet

“Amidst growing concern about the impacts of plastic on the oceans, ecosystems, and human health, there’s another largely hidden dimension of the plastic crisis: plastic’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. This report examines each of these stages of the plastic lifecycle to identify the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, sources of uncounted emissions, and uncertainties that likely lead to underestimation of plastic’s climate impacts. The report compares greenhouse gas emissions estimates against global carbon budgets and emissions commitments, and it considers how current trends and projections will impact our ability to reach agreed emissions targets. […]”

Published: May 2019

Authors: Center for International Environmental Law, Environmental Integrity Project, FracTracker Alliance, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, 5Gyres, #breakfreefromplastic

Discarded: Communities on the Frontlines of the Global Plastic Crisis

“This report continues GAIA’s research on the effects of China’s National Sword policy and the broader implications of plastic pollution as the world attempts to adjust to a new landscape of global plastic recycling. As the crisis deepens, this report focuses on three countries in Southeast Asia, and particularly the stories of people on-the-ground who have been thrust to the frontlines of the world’s plastic problem.”

Published: April 2019

Author: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Plastics Exposed: How Waste Assesments & Brand Audits Are Helping Philippine Cities Fight Plastic Pollution

“This report gives a snapshot of the plastic pollution problem with a focus on the Philippines, where a number of cities are trying to implement sustainable Zero Waste strategies. Their complete success, however, is being hindered by the proliferation of plastic bags, sachets, and other disposable plastic packaging and products. Using data gathered from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives’ (GAIA’s) Zero Waste Cities project sites, this research provides new quantitative evidence to support the global call for the plastics industry and manufacturing companies to immediately reduce and eventually stop producing single-use plastics as the primary solution to end plastic pollution.”

Published: February 2019

Author: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet

“Despite being one of the most pervasive materials on the planet, plastic and its impact on human health is poorly understood. Human exposure to it grows with increasing plastic production and use. Research into the human health impacts of plastic to date have focused narrowly on specific moments in the plastic lifecycle, from wellhead to refinery, from store shelves to human bodies, and from disposal to ongoing impacts as air pollutants and ocean plastic. Individually, each stage of the plastic lifecycle poses significant risks to human health. Together, the lifecycle impacts of plastic paint an unequivocally toxic picture: plastic threatens human health on a global scale.”

Published: February 2019

Authors: Center for International Environmental Law, Earthworks, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, IPEN, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, UPSTREAM, #breakfreefromplastic

Branded: In Search of the World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters

“In 2018, individuals and organizations across the globe took local action to hold corporations accountable for the plastic pollution they force into the marketplace through unnecessary, problematic and excessive throwaway packaging and materials. Break Free From Plastic member organizations engaged nearly 10,000 volunteers in 239 clean-ups in 42 countries on 6 continents, collecting over 187,851 pieces of plastic pollution. By adding “brand audits” to the clean-ups, the teams catalogued thousands of parent companies marketing many thousands more consumer brands found as plastic pollution collected in the countries represented. Our analysis of that data reveals the Top Polluters worldwide from participating brand audits: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.”

Published: October 2018

Author: #breakfreefromplastic

Fueling Plastics: Series Examines Deep Linkages Between the Fossil Fuels & Plastics Industries, & The Products They Produce

“Launched on September 20th, 2017, Fueling Plastics, an ongoing investigative series, examining the deep linkages between the fossil fuels and plastics industries and the products they produce, and exposing how the US shale gas boom fuels a massive buildout of plastics infrastructure in the United States and beyond. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and the release of air pollutants and toxic substances from petrochemical facilities across the Gulf region, these reports shed new light on the harmful impacts of fossil fuels at every stage of their lifecycle.”

Published: Since 2017

Author: Center for International Environmental Law

Stemming the Plastic Flood: Increasing Restrictions & Prohibitions on Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) Worldwide

A Break Free From Plastic Movement Report.

Including: research and rationale for increasing policy restrictions on plastics; a list of national bans and restrictions on single-use plastic, plus a sampling of local ordinances banning or restricting single-use plastics.

Published: April 2018

Author: Beau Baconguis, #breakfreefromplastic

Unwrapped: How Throwaway Plastic is Failing to Solve Europe's Food Waste Problem (& What We Need To Do Instead)

“Europe has an opportunity to reposition our approach to the production, delivery and consumption of food and food packaging. While plastics have some role to play, real reform must be broader in scope. This report shows the need to better examine the limits of plastic packaging in reducing food waste overall, and identifies real innovation among those who eschew all forms of waste. Policymakers must now turn successful initiatives into everyday practice. Europe’s high rates of per capita waste should not be viewed as an inevitable byproduct of economic development and convenient lifestyles: today’s environmental realities oblige us to approach food, plastic and all resources in a way that ensures a good life for all within the planetary boundaries. Similarly, Europe wants a food system that values agricultural produce and supports its producers, thus supply chains should be used to foster regional development and allow the food system to reduce, reuse and recycle materials, including packaging.”

Published: March 2018

Authors: Rethink Plastic Alliance, Zero Waste Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe

Better Alternatives Now: B.A.N. List 2.0

“Goals of this Report: Identify the Top 20 plastic products and packaging that pollute U.S. watersheds; Provide the public, policymakers and environmental advocates with valuable data to drive campaigns; Share available data on brands associated with products on the B.A.N. List Unravel the misinformation surrounding bioplastics; Discuss alternatives to the most common polluting products and packaging.”

Published: March 2018

Author: 5Gyres

Trash in America: Moving from Destructive Consumption to a Zero Waste System

“The United States produces an immense amount of waste. Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S. – often only briefly – before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. This system of consumption and disposal results in the waste of precious resources and pollution that threatens our health, environment and global climate. Because the costs of this system fall on society at large – not on the producers and consumers that drive it – there are few direct incentives for change. To protect public health and the envi­ronment, conserve natural resources and landscapes, and address the mounting crisis of global warming, America should move toward an economic system characterized by zero waste. To achieve that goal, federal, state and local governments should enact policies and programs that incentivize shift­ing to a “circular,” or “closed-loop,” econo­my in which less is consumed and all materi­als are reused, recycled and composted in a continuous cycle.”

Published: February 2018

Authors: U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Frontier Group, Toxics Action Center

Recycling Is Not Enough: It’s Time to Rethink How to Solve the Plastic Waste Crisis

“GAIA, with the help of core partners around the globe, did extensive research on the state of plastic recycling worldwide, and the immediate and potential long-term effects of China’s ban. Our research indicates that the only real way to solve the world’s plastic pollution crisis is to simply make less plastic. Our key findings include: Plastics producers are planning on flooding the markets with a massive scale-up over the coming decades, fuelled by cheap fossil fuel extraction like shale gas. Companies are not only designing plastic to be difficult or impossible to recycle, but the overwhelming flood of new plastic into the market thwarts any chance of recycling keeping up. […]”

Published: January 2018

Authors: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Zero Waste Europe, #breakfreefromplastic, Consumers Association of Penang, Friends of the Earth Europe, Ecology Center, The Story of Stuff Project, BaliFokus, China Zero Waste Alliance

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