Back to Blue (external site), an ocean health initiative of Economist Impact and The Nippon Foundation, releases the first edition of its Plastics Management Index (PMI) (external site). The index ranks 25 countries worldwide across five continents, assessing the capacity of a country to minimise plastics mismanagement while promoting the optimal production and use of plastic as a resource. The index comprises three pillars – governance, existing systemic capacity, and stakeholder engagement —measured across 12 indicators and 44 individual sub-indicators.
The world produces and uses more plastic each year, with 367 million metric tonnes manufactured in 2020. With production forecast expected to double by 2040, plastic is not the world’s only pollution challenge, but it is arguably the most prominent. The scale of the challenge demands a new framework that covers the entire lifecycle of plastic products—from design to production to consumption to disposal and beyond. The PMI is designed to bring attention to growing global concerns around the use of plastic, highlighting how its management can be made sustainable.
The report reveals that Germany is the top performer overall in plastics management, scoring 87 points out of 100. Ranking first for governance and stakeholder engagement and third for systemic capacity, this is largely due to the country’s recycling scheme by the government and industries that have resulted in a circular economy for plastics.
Despite producing half the world’s plastics, Asia lags in global plastics management efforts as compared to Europe. Europe leads the overall ranking largely thanks to the proactivity of the European Union and the region’s ability to fund innovation and research. Asia-Pacific countries largely comprise the middle of the table, followed by Latin American nations and those in Africa.
While Japan has outshone its regional peers on the index, the country falls short in terms of the third category: stakeholder management. Placing third overall for this category was largely due to its 24th place in the sub-category of responsible consumer actions and perceptions and its 16th place for private sector commitments to reduce plastics waste and promote responsible plastic use, especially with business practices.
Similar to Germany, Japan underperforms in terms of efficient collection and sorting channels where it was ranked seventh, which dragged down its overall score for the systemic capacity category.
Naka Kondo, editor of the PMI report, Policy and Insights at Economist Impact, and , says:
“We have created the Plastics Management Index as a new benchmark for measuring how countries are coping with plastics from cradle to grave–just as the need, and interest, globally builds for managing plastics across their entire lifecycle, rather than with piecemeal approaches such as plastic bag bans. Quite a few countries continue to struggle, though the index identifies real currents of hope. But equally, just because countries appear to be performing well does not mean they are doing enough to address the issues.”
Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation states:
“The path the world is on with plastics is plainly unsustainable. Already plastics leakage is doing untold damage to our ocean. The scale of the challenge is startling, and in urgent need of cohesive and effective solutions that can address every element of the complex lifecycle of plastics. The Plastics Management Index, I hope, will shed light on where we are globally, and where we need to be headed to manage plastics more effectively and responsibly.”