Oxford researchers have published a vision for a sustainable, circular economy of plastics. The researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Plastics at the University of Oxford have outlined ambitious targets to help deliver a sustainable and net zero plastic economy. In their paper published in Nature, the authors argue for a rethinking of the technical, economic, and policy paradigms that have entrenched the status quo, one of rising carbon emissions and uncontrolled pollution.

Currently, the global plastics system results in 1 Gigatonne per annum (Gt/annum) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions which is the same as the total combined emissions of Europe’s three largest economies (UK, Germany and France). If left unchecked, these emissions could rise to 4-5 Gt/annum. A further problem is the lack of recycling. In 2019 only 9% of the world plastic waste was turned into new products through mechanical recycling. The majority ended up in landfills or was incinerated and a significant proportion was mismanaged, ending up polluting terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

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