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WWF International's director-generaI: If you’re recycling plastic, you’re fooling yourself

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK
WWF International’s director-general Marco Lambertini is urging people to change their plastic-buying ways. Photo: Donat Sorokin/Getty Images

People who are diligent about recycling their plastic waste are still a big part of the global plastic pollution problem, warned the director-general of WWF International.

In a one-on-one interview with Yahoo Finance UK at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Marco Lambertini warned that consumers are “cheating” when they recycle plastic.

“You take your plastic, you put it in the right container, you feel you’ve done the right thing. But actually, that plastic is not guaranteed it will be recycled,” he said. “In many countries, that plastic is going to end up… in the incinerators.”

“You really need to shift your behaviours… We are using too much plastic. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “The capability to recycle is quite limited in the world. We’re only recycling 14% of plastics.”

The world produces about 335 million tonnes of plastic per year and production is growing “exponentially,” warned Lambertini.


In a bid to solve the problem, WWF is urging consumers and companies to act quickly and cut their plastic production and consumption. Recycling simply isn’t enough.

Companies including Ikea and Nestle (NESN.VX) recently launched programmes to cut their plastic waste. Last week, Nestle said it would drop plastic straws from its products starting next month and was working on biodegradable water bottles.

British retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) also recently announced it is working to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by launching a range of loose fruit and vegetables completely free of plastic packaging in order to tackle the issue.

“They’re small steps, but we need more dramatic change,” said Lambertini.

READ MORE: Environmental crises voted most urgent risks facing world in 2019

Environmental issues are top-of-mind this week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

new survey released by WEF found that the top three concerns among global business executives, politicians, and experts were related to the environment and climate change.

The following three risks were considered the most likely to happen in 2019, according to WEF’s ‘Global Risks Report’:

  1. Extreme weather events (such as floods and storms)
  2. Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation
  3. Major natural disasters (such as earthquakes and tsunami)

READ MORE: World Economic Forum warns globe is ‘sleepwalking into a crisis’