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What is Single-Use Plastic?

Single-Use Plastic:


A report was published which gave details of who makes single-use plastic, 130 million tons a year at last count, and who makes money from it.

  • The report was published by Minderoo, a nonprofit organization based in Australia along with academics at the University of Oxford and the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Major Producers:

  • Half of the world’s single-use plastic is made by 20 big companies.
  • Two US companies followed by a Chinese-owned petrochemicals giant, and another one based in Bangkok.

Major Investors:

  • Production is financed by financial services companies including banks.
  • Governments are also big stakeholders in this industry. About 40% of the largest single-use plastic makers are partly owned by governments, including China and Saudi Arabia.


  • Single-use plastic has been a very good business, and that’s projected to continue. In the next five years alone, production capacity is forecast to grow by 30%.


  • There’s a huge disparity between richer and poorer nations:
    • An average American uses and throws away 50 kilograms of single-use plastic every year whereas an average Indian uses less than one-twelfth of an American.

Single-Use Plastics:

  • Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
  • These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.
  • Plastic is so cheap and convenient that it has replaced all other materials from the packaging industry but it takes hundreds of years to disintegrate.
  • It is a huge problem. If we look at the data, out of 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste generated every year in our country, 43% is single-use plastic.
  • Uses:
    • The single-use plastic products also prevent the spread of infection.
    • Instruments such as syringes, applicators, drug tests, bandages, and wraps are often made to be disposable.
    • Also, single-use plastic products have been enlisted in the fight against food waste, keeping food and water fresher for longer and reducing the potential for contamination.
  • Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean.
  • In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic) which make their way into our food and water supply.