Germany leads in plastics management index, Asia lags behind

The world produces and uses more plastic each year, with 367 million 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.

Thus, Back to Blue, an ocean health initiative of Economist Impact and the Nippon Foundation, has released the first edition of its Plastics Management Index (PMI). 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 25 countries selected for the index are:

Overall ranking

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.

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."

Overall ranking

Overall ranking

The top performers in each pillar are as follows:

Governance: Germany (1), Japan (2), France (3), US (4), Sweden (5)
Systemic capacity: UK (1), Japan (2), Germany (3), US (4), France (5)
Stakeholder engagement: Germany (1), Malaysia (2), Japan (3), Australia (4), Chile (5)


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