Forbes - Plastic has been much demonised recently, thanks to its impact on wildlife and the environment, which is starkly illustrated by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and pictures of seahorses clutching Q-tips or dead albatrosses with stomachs full of plastic.


Despite the increasing concern about the issue, there is little sign that plastic use is falling. Half of all the plastic ever made was produced in the last 13 years, says investment house Hermes, while output is set to increase by 40% in the next decade.

“There are reasons for the ongoing ubiquity of plastic: as a resource it is cheap, lightweight, waterproof and requires less energy to manufacture than many other materials,” said Dr Emma Berntman of Hermes Equity Ownership Services, which engages with companies about environmental, social and governance issues on behalf of investors.

“Unfortunately, another important advantage of plastic is also the reason it creates such an issue in the environment: its durability,” she added in a research note. “Plastic has become emblematic of the problems inherent in the traditional consumption-led economic model because its durability and visibility mean we are now literally seeing it everywhere.” Of the 8.3bn metric tonnes of plastic ever produced globally, around 4.9bn tonnes have been discarded rather than incinerated or recycled.