This post is by Freny Fernandes from Visual Capitalist
Charting the Movement of Global Plastic Waste
Every year, nations worldwide produce around 350 million metric tons of plastic waste. This is equivalent to over 10 million fully loaded garbage trucks.
Most of this plastic waste is either incinerated or sent to landfills, thus eventually polluting our air, land, and oceans. Only a fraction of this waste is recycled, and contrary to popular belief, just 2% is traded internationally.
This graphic by Our World in Data uses data from OECD and UN Comtrade to reveal just how much plastic waste is traded across borders, and which countries are estimated to export and import the most of it.
Why Trade Waste?
Though most plastic waste is managed and recycled within countries, exporting spare waste helps manage a part of their plastic emissions more cheaply and reduces pressure on local recycling facilities and landfills.
Importing plastics, on the other hand, comes with certain financial benefits too. Repurposing recycled plastics into goods is a far cheaper option for industries that would otherwise rely on buying newly manufactured expensive plastics. And many countries differ when it comes to their specific plastic recycling capabilities and needs, so while they might export some plastic waste, they also import others that are useful.
Research has even found that higher plastic waste imports have positively impacted the economic growth of many low-income countries, in the right circumstances.
However, when countries export unusable and non-recyclable contaminated plastics, these same low-income nations may see the end-of-life ecosystem costs outweigh (Read more...)