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Global Plastics Flow 2018

The world's first survey with results and analyses of the global plastics and waste streams is available for free download.

The pilot study, which was published in October 2019, provides the first overview of global plastics flows. For the pilot study, data worldwide from 44 countries on production, processing and waste treatment of plastics were collected and summarized to form an overall picture. These countries represent around 60 percent of the world's population and around 80 percent of GDP.

The pilot study represents the first attempt worldwide to trace the entire global plastics flow from production to waste treatment. The authors of the study discovered considerable differences from country to country in terms of data availability and quality. As a result, in some countries where such flows are not statistically recorded, they were dependent on secondary sources such as scientific articles, information and analyses from plastics associations or newspaper reports. From this information, they formed a harmonised overall picture, which still relies on extrapolations in many places due to the data situation.

Against this background, the study reveals the following main results based on the year 2018:

  • Production: 360 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide.
  • Processing: In addition to the 360 million tonnes of virgin material, a further 30 million tonnes of recycled material are added, so that a total of 390 million tonnes of plastics are processed annually.
  • Post-consumer waste: From the sum total of used plastic goods, around 250 million tonnes of consumer-related plastic waste is generated each year.
  • Waste management: Approximately 173 million tonnes of plastic waste is collected (either formally by municipal or private waste management companies or informally by waste collectors, organised groups or smaller companies). Of this, about 50 million tonnes are sent for recycling, 51 million tonnes for energy recovery and 72 million tonnes to a regulated landfill.
  • Waste input into the environment: 63 million tonnes of plastic waste is improperly disposed of, for example in wild landfills, and around 14 million tonnes ends up carelessly in the environment (leakage).

In their evaluation of the results, the partners involved in the study agree that the most important thing is to collect, sort and recycle the plastic waste in order to prevent plastic waste from entering the environment. With the study they want to give impulses for the global discussion about suitable measures against littering. At the same time, they want to provide a basis for further studies in order to extend or verify the data of this first study.
The study was carried out by Conversio Market & Strategy GmbH in close cooperation with associations of the Global Plastics Alliance and other numerous institutions. Its clients and partners are BKV GmbH, EUROMAP Europe's Association for plastics and rubber machinery, GKV Gesamtverband Kunststoffverarbeitende Industrie e.V., GPA Global Plastics Alliance, IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V., K-Messe, PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V. and VDMA.

The complete study with the survey results and analyses as well as a short management summary of the study are available for free download here:


  • BKV GmbH
  • Photo: © mtm Plastics GmbH