Building the World

CITIES: Plastic – Part 2, The Producers


Cities are filled with plastic products – where are they made? Image: “Slovnaft – New Prolypropylene Plant” by Miklova. CC by 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Cities are the largest depositories of plastic products. Plastic was the largest category of waste disposal in Singapore in 2020 – 763,000 tons. Singapore recycles only 4% of its plastic waste. Other cities may do a bit better: San Francisco is the top city in the world for recycling. But we see only the end of the process.

“Global production and fate of plastics.” based on Geyer et al., 2007. With appreciation to Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Janbeck, Kara Lavender Law. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia.

Where do these products originate? It’s an enormous market – global sales of items manufactured in plastic reached $79 billion in 2018, and with growth of 8.5% per year since then. Europe set the highest value worth of exported plastic, with Asia and North America just behind. Plastic may grow to a $754 billion market by 2027 (unless the world does something soon to reduce the use of plastic). Plastic products may fill our cities, but where do they originate? Who are the producers?


Dow Chemical Company (coatings)

LyondellBasell (polyethylene and polypropylene)

ExxonMobil (olefins)

SABIC (polymers)

INEOS (food and product packaging)

BASF (world’s 6th largest manufacturer of plastics)

ENI (various plastics)

I.G. Chem (materials)

Chevron Phillips Chemical (polyalphaoelfins)

Lanxess (polymers)

Source: BizVibe 2022

The plastic you see, in your shampoo container or beverage bottle, is the end of the production process. It’s what you recycle: that’s part of the solution. Some consumer products, like beverage and cosmetic companies, are reducing their use of plastic packaging. But as we address plastic pollution, should we also concentrate on the origination?

Geyer, Roland, Jenna R. Janbeck, Kara Lavender Law. “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.” 19 July 2017. Science Advances.

Oh, Tessa. “Explainer: Why Singapore’s plastic recycling rate is so low and what can be done to raise it.” 30 August 2021. Today.

“Top 10 Largest Plastic Manufacturing Companies in the World” BizVibe. 2022. https://blog/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un



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