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Plastic Futures

8 March 2019 Credibility


The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next decade. Yet efforts are being made to reduce or ban plastic in many parts of our lives by danger-aware and innovative organizations.
What is changing?

The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next decade. Yet, efforts are being made to reduce or ban plastic in many parts of our lives by danger aware and innovative organizations. Opportunities and challenges linked to plastics are increasingly global and addressing them will significantly contribute to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Read on to discover what our robot, Athena, thinks the future of plastics could be, act accordingly, or click any link to read the evidence she found in 1,514 reports, articles and PowerPoints from the Web and Social Media in a few seconds.

If you are new to foresight, we recommend you view this slide presentation first to get the best out of this report.

Summary

Drivers

Environmental concern leads to these initiatives:

Analysis
This summary analysis draws from our robot's below visualizations of the future of drones and draws from different vantage points to tell the story of what's emerging just like a GPS system.

Systems map: Plastic use is all around every one of us but is giving serious cause for concern due to its non-biodegradability. Early efforts by governments to reduce plastic use and new forms of sustainable packaging and materials signal that every organization will have to review its policies and act fast to ensure continued consumer support and achieve future environmental next practice.

Radar chart: Use of plastics in healthcare, 3D printing, construction. packaging and manufacturing will come under increasing scrutiny and be subject to regulation to reduce the increasing amount of pollution now threatening our environment. New replacement plastic chemistries and the use of substitute biodegradable materials will come to the fore.

Spline chart: Peak activity in terms of plastic reduction is likely to be between now and 2026 with continuing efforts throughout the century. Initially, the knee jerk reaction will be calls to ban or tax plastics where easy pickings can be found. But more sophisticated substitutes are likely on harder to replace plastic items as the pressure to solve pollution problems mount. This will be a tough road to follow for many organizations' so the time is now to fully audit plastics use and begin the conversion process to more environmentally sustainable materials.

To begin your journey we recommend you read this great story about someone whose been there and got the tee-shirt: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/09/03/20-years-later-interface-looks-back-ray-andersons-legacy

There are many parallels here with plastics especially in Ray Anderson's insistence that Interface's carpets would be 100% sustainable and nothing less would do: imagine your organization 100% plastics free.

Sentiment: The sentiment chart tells a somewhat mixed story. There are many positive sentiments being expressed by pundits and experts who see great potential growth for traditional plastics over the next 30 years and somewhat less so for innovative replacement materials. But these generally exclude increasing efforts to reduce the use of plastics due to environmental concerns. With China banning plastic waste imports and potentially other countries following suit, greater regulation around the world and action groups increasingly vociferous we believe that negative sentiment will increase quite substantially.

Pie Charts: The growth of and concerns about plastics are rated as of high intensity, one notch from the top ranking of very high. The tipping point for public acceptance of new ways of manufacturing and substituting for plastic products will take another generation. Athena's calculation suggests that 2039 is most likely. Just like smoking it will take a while to wean the world off plastic. Meanwhile plastic waste entering the oceans and soil will likely take 500 years to degrade creating health risks for fish, animals, birds and ultimately, humans!

We can expect future class-action suits against laggard major plastics polluters because the issue has been regularly discussed in public since at least 2009.

Heat map: The heat map shows just how urgent the problem is with hardly any country or sector having a very high focus on minimising plastic use. Efforts are at early stage at best.

Geography: The regions of the world with the most plastics use are Australasia, Asia, Europe and North America. Governments on these regions and major corporations will have to do a lot more to get on top of plastics policies in very short order.

Leader board: The leader board indicates that the European Union is likely to lead the charge in improving plastics policies and in regulating and taxing their supply and demand. It remains to be seen if the US and China will follow the EU's lead and change the existing paradigm.

SWOT: Lastly, the SWOT chart shows many opportunities for plastics but there are plenty of weaknesses and threats too. The time for action by every responsible organization is now before the positive outlook reverses.

Potential Solutions

Visuals
For more detailed explanation of the graphics below please click here. All outlooks based on 2025 unless otherwise stated.

System map
Plastic use is all around every one of us but is giving serious cause for concern due to its non-biodegradability. Early efforts by governments to reduce plastic use and new forms of sustainable packaging and materials signal that every organization will have to review its policies and act fast to ensure continued consumer support and achieve future environmental next practice.


Radar chart

Use of plastics in healthcare, 3D printing, construction. packaging and manufacturing will come under increasing scrutiny and be subject to regulation to reduce the increasing amount of pollution now threatening our environment. New replacement plastic chemistries and the use of substitute biodegradable materials will come to the fore.


Spline
To begin your journey we recommend you read this great story about someone whose been there and got the tee-shirt: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/09/03/20-years-later-interface-looks-back-ray-andersons-legacy

There are many parallels here with plastics especially in Ray Anderson's insistence that Interface's carpets would be 100% sustainable and nothing less would do: imagine your organization 100% plastics free.


The blue line represents the five-year moving average of the aggregated splines that can be seen in background.

Sentiment
The sentiment chart tells a somewhat mixed story. There are many positive sentiments being expressed by pundits and experts who see great potential growth for traditional plastics over the next 30 years and somewhat less so for innovative replacement materials. But these generally exclude increasing efforts to reduce the use of plastics due to environmental concerns. With China banning plastic waste imports and potentially other countries following suit, greater regulation around the world and action groups increasingly vociferous we believe that negative sentiment will increase quite substantially.

Pie Charts

The growth of and concerns about plastics are rated as of high intensity, one notch from the top ranking of very high. The tipping point for public acceptance of new ways of manufacturing and substituting for plastic products will take another generation. Athena's calculation suggests that 2039 is most likely. Just like smoking it will take a while to wean the world off plastic. Meanwhile plastic waste entering the oceans and soil will likely take 500 years to degrade creating health risks for fish, animals, birds and ultimately, humans!

We can expect future class-action suits against laggard major plastics polluters because the issue has been regularly discussed in public since at least 2009.

Heat map

The heat map shows just how urgent the problem is with hardly any country or sector having a very high focus on minimising plastic use. Efforts are at early stage at best.

Geography

The regions of the world with the most plastics use are Australasia, Asia, Europe and North America. Governments on these regions and major corporations will have to do a lot more to get on top of plastics policies in very short order.

Leader board
The leader board indicates that the European Union is likely to lead the charge in improving plastics policies and in regulating and taxing their supply and demand. It remains to be seen if the US and China will follow the EU's lead and change the existing paradigm.

SWOT

Lastly, the SWOT chart shows many opportunities for plastics but there are plenty of weaknesses and threats too. The time for action by every responsible organization is now before the positive outlook reverses.

Evidence

Search term: “Plastic*”. Use this search term to explore our database for more knowledge and wisdom and latest data and information on the topic.

Implications

rate

market

packaging

plastic

waste

production

bottle

industry

product

growth

bag

demand

Questions

Potential Responses

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Sources
Athena used the sources below as the top ones to create this report and determined which embedded forecasts are included in this Trend Alert. She found 1,514 forecasts in seconds on 7th March 2019 to allow us to publish this report in less than two hours. She can turn these into PowerPoint slides and Audio files in minutes too as you wish, or we can prepare a full customized and professionally written brief for you to order covering all these forecasts.

 

Athena
Athena does show duplicates to aid your understanding of themes as well as contradictory forecasts. She may also show near-duplicates. You can speed read past the duplicates and near-duplicates if you wish, though the latter may show additional information. You can use the contradictory, and likely uncertain forecasts she finds to imagine different scenarios. The future is unpredictable, but we can examine the possibilities and choose our preferable future from the choices she presents.
Athena is apolitical. She will report forecasts from different viewpoints however distasteful that might be to our own values. Wearing rose-colored glasses is not her purpose; reporting potential futures is. So, we recommend you check her veracity before responding to her extracted forecasts.

Just like humans, Athena can be fallible. Do recognize that you and your associates are biased too. But whereas you tire, make mistakes and only recognize what interests you, she does not. She might miss or misinterpret as you do, but with far less frequency and she'll take uncomfortable truths and alternative ideas in her stride. But, please let us know if you feel her bias can be reduced. We want to do our best for you. And, as with any research, you should check and triangulate her findings for yourself.

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