The Plastic Waste Management Framework

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This comprehensive report by the Alliance, in collaboration with Roland Berger, offers insights into various policies and levers that countries can adopt to enhance recycling rates, strengthen waste management systems, and progress towards an improved circularity for plastics.

November 14, 2023
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Plastic pollution poses a significant global environmental challenge. In 2023, an estimated 70 percent of plastic waste remains uncollected, leaks into the environment, is dumped into landfills, or subjected to open burning. While countries work to improve and strengthen their waste management systems, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Diverse national circumstances, varying stages of progress in waste management, and unequal access to resources underline the need for countries to employ a range of strategies to improve their waste management efforts and move towards a circular economy.

As part of our efforts to educate and inform key stakeholders about this issue, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has worked together with Roland Berger on a report titled "The Plastic Waste Management Framework". This comprehensive report includes policies and levers that countries can consider adopting to reduce plastic waste leakage into the environment, improve recycling rates, and increase plastic circularity. The study includes policy deep-dives into key levers such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Deposit Return Systems (DRS), and the informal “waste picker” sector that can be used to develop national action plans tailored to each country’s circumstances and available resources.

To improve their recycling rates and increase plastic circularity in a sustainable manner. The range of measures discussed, from regulatory policies to specific infrastructural and operational improvements, demonstrates the importance of a multi-faceted approach to combat the problem of plastic waste.

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The global plastic waste challenge

360 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated annually, with 50 percent coming from packaging, and 30 percent from construction, industry, and agriculture plastic waste. While plastic is a popular material for its versatility and purpose in essential industries, the improper disposal and end-of-life processing is a growing concern.

In 2021, approximately 50 percent of plastic waste ended up in landfills and only 10 percent was recycled globally. Europe is the global leader in plastic waste recycling with a rate of approximately 15 percent in 2021, while Asia stands at 12 percent and North America at 5 percent.

Six Plastic Recycling Maturity Categories Identified

A meta-analysis of 192 countries identified six distinct plastic waste management and recycling maturity categories based on five key dimensions:

  1. 1. Collection
  2. 2. Treatment
  3. 3. Wider waste management legislation framework
  4. 4. Specific plastic (waste) policy framework
  5. 5. Enablers

The study examines each category's defining characteristics and outlines potential pathways for countries to progress towards a higher level of maturity over time.

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The Plastic Waste Management Framework

Tailored strategies to improve plastic waste management need to factor in a country's national circumstances, infrastructure capacities, and resources. This report offers a framework of strategies and policy levers, as well as a range of measures that highlight the need for a multifaceted approach.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of plastic pollution. Collective action is required to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of waste management systems, and this is a good place to begin.