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Plastic waste continues to rise in 2024

Some 220 Million Tonnes of plastic waste are set to be generated in 2024, a new study has shown.


There has been a steady rise in plastic waste of 7.11% since 2021. 


Over one third will be mismanaged at the end of its life amounting to 68.6 million tonnes of plastic in nature with a global average of 28 kg of plastic waste per person.


This year's Plastic Overshoot Day report has been released by EA Earth Action ahead of the fourth round of negotiations for a UN Global Plastics Treaty in Ottawa, Canada.


Plastic Overshoot Day marks the point when the amount of plastic waste generated exceeds the world’s capacity to manage it. 


This year global Plastic Overshoot Day lands on the 5 September 2024. 


Whilst the inaugural report in 2023 analysed plastic packaging waste alone, this year the Swiss NGO has included plastic waste from the textile industry and household waste into its analysis. 


Using the revised scope, Plastic Overshoot Day 2023 would have landed on the 4 September, meaning a one day reprieve for this year’s date. 


EA Earth Action emphasise any improvements in waste management capacity are outpaced by rising plastic production, the Swiss NGO going onto state the assumption that recycling will ‘solve the plastics crisis’ is flawed. 


Almost 50% of the world’s populations since April 2024 have been living in areas where plastic waste generated has already exceeded the capacity to manage it.


The figure is projected to rise to 66% by 5 September 2024 indicating the pressures placed on developing countries by the plastic pollution crisis.



To track the issue at a national level, each country has its own Plastic Overshoot Day which is determined by the amount of plastic waste generated and the country’s capacity to manage it. 


There are 117 days of plastic overshoot, meaning that the plastic waste produced during these days will not be well managed. 


Each country contributes to a portion of this plastic overshoot, according to the total amount of plastic waste they mismanage.


Just 12 countries are responsible for 60% of the world’s mismanaged plastic waste, the top five being China, USA, India, Brazil, and Mexico. 


EA Earth Action grouped countries around the world into six archetypes which provides tailored recommendations for improving waste management.

They include strategies such as reducing plastic consumption and use, promoting circular economy models such as repair and reuse initiatives, implementing robust waste management policies like extended producer responsibilities (EPR), enhancing local waste management infrastructure, and ceasing the import of plastic waste from other countries. 


The organisation believes in the shared responsibility from both public and private sectors with each distinctive roles to play for tackling this issue in a cooperative approach, informed by the science. 


EA Earth Action urge UN delegates present at the upcoming UN negotiations to take note of the report’s recommendations that align to an ambitious policy scenario.


Sarah Perreard, Co-CEO, at EA Earth Action and Plastic Footprint Network, said: ‘The findings are unequivocal; improvements in waste management capacity are outpaced by rising plastic production, making progress almost invisible. The assumption that recycling and waste management capacity will solve the plastics crisis is flawed.


‘The 2024 Plastic Overshoot Day report can serve both as a testament to our current trajectory and as a blueprint for necessary action. The decisions made today will echo through ecosystems and economies for generations. Ahead of UN Plastic Treaty negotiations in Ottawa, we call for a steadfast pursuit of science driven, robust global policy that matches the scale of the plastic pollution problem. Let 2024 be the year we pivot to a trajectory that embraces reduction, ensuring the legacy we leave is not one buried in plastic.’


Sian Sutherland, co-founder, A Plastic Planet and Plastic Health Council, who held the Plastic Solutions & Health Summit in Washington DC recently, commented on the report stating: ‘After scientists ringing the alarm for decades it is now evident for all to see that plastic pollution has set humanity on the road to ecological and humanitarian disaster.’


‘We have a narrow window of opportunity this year to create a global Plastics Treaty that will protect not only our ocean, our air, our soil but our own children. The question for every government now is this – will you negotiate a Treaty to protect the health of your people; or will you negotiate a Treaty to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry?


‘Viable solutions are already available at scale, giving us materials and systems that work in harmony with nature, not against it.’


Professor Terry Collins, Teresa Heinz professor and director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University, said: ‘EA Earth Action's superb Plastic Overshoot Day report for 2024 offers a special lens through which to view how different countries are balancing their relationships between plastic production and plastic waste management.  


‘It reveals the many objective limitations of the national and international balancing acts to better illuminate that our global civilisation will never inveigle its way out of plastic overshoot by following what the industry is asking for; a strategy of expanded waste management. The report gets it right: plastic production and use must shrink as the most important pathway toward a sustainable future.’


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