Plastics pollution burst into the public consciousness in 2018, and is unlikely to retreat any time soon.
Policy momentum to address plastics pollution has in fact been building for some time. According to the UN report Single-Use Plastics, A Roadmap for Sustainability, the number of new regulations on single-use plastics entering into force at the national level in 2017 leapt to 17, up from 10 the year before and just 5 the year before that.
Another UN study, Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics, published in December, found that 127 of the 192 countries reviewed had some form of legislation to regulate the use of plastic bags, 27 countries had banned either specific products or put restrictions on the use of particular plastics, 27 had instituted taxes or fees relating to plastic bags, and 43 had some elements or characteristics of extended producer responsibility contained within legislation.
And, in October, the European Parliament voted in favour of a directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products in the environment — possibly the most significant plastics regulation to date. Aimed at marine plastics pollution, the directive is expected to come into force from 2021 and affects a plastics-consuming population of more than 500 million.
For an oil industry grappling with the potential consequences of transport electrification, plastics regulation looks like a direct hit on their new posterchild, petrochemicals.…