By the year 2050, the amount of plastics in the world's oceans could outweigh the fish living in them, given the projected growth in consumption and the "leakage of plastics into natural systems", warns the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a new study.
The report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos and includes global plastic packaging flows as a main focus. Most plastic packaging is used only once, meaning 95 per cent of its material value – estimated at $80–120bn – is lost annually to the economy, the study finds. In addition, plastics packaging "generates significant negative externalities", valued conservatively at $40bn by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Ellen MacArthur Foundation calls for a "systemic shift" towards a "New Plastics Economy", based on a radical increase in the economics, quality and quantity of recycling and a drastic reduction in the release of plastics into nature.