Press Release

Center for Sustainability of Credit Suisse publishes study on plastic pollution

The second session of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is currently taking place in Paris to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. The negotiations for a global plastics treaty could yield the most significant sustainability-focused multilateral proposal since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The final remarks and the adoption of the report of this session are expected on June 02, 2023. To contribute constructively to this important dialogue, the Center for Sustainability of Credit Suisse has today published a dedicated report on plastic pollution. It explores the benefits as well as the costs of plastic across environment, biodiversity and social pillars.

Key highlights

  • Plastic usage dramatically outstripped both GDP and population growth over a 60-year-period, with more and more plastic required to add each incremental dollar to GDP, research by the Credit Suisse Research Institute and the Bank’s Global Sustainability team has found.
  • The plastic intensity of GDP soared between 1960 and 2020, with plastic usage increasing almost 5,000%, while real GDP grew by around 650% and the world’s population rose roughly 160%.
  • Credit Suisse’s research has for the first time applied to plastic utilization the Kaya Identity model, which is used to determine the demographic, economic and social drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. Credit Suisse’s Plastic Usage Kaya Identity demonstrates conclusively that global economic growth has been heavily plastic reliant.
  • Under a baseline scenario that extends current trends and does not assume additional policy action, we expect annual plastic waste to almost double from approximately 350 million metric tons to about 670 million metric tons by 2060. However, annual mismanaged plastic waste increases by a smaller proportion – from approximately 80 million metric tons to just over 100 million metric tons.
  • We can visualize the drivers of this evolution via the Plastic Kaya Identity, which reveals, under this model, that GDP per capita is the most significant parameter in the projected increase in plastic pollution.
  • We update the well-known 2016 statement from an Ellen MacArthur Foundation paper that, by 2050, there would be more plastic metric tonnage than fish in the sea. With our revised dataset, we make an interesting – though less-sensational – claim that, without additional policy action by 2060, there could be more plastic tonnage than whale biomass in the sea.

Center for Sustainability

The Center for Sustainability (CfS) is a pillar of the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI), our in-house think tank, which studies long-term economic developments that have a global impact on the financial services industry and beyond. The CfS aims to provide our clients and stakeholders with a deeper understanding of emerging sustainability topics as we bridge the perspectives of sustainability experts from across Credit Suisse to confront the challenges and opportunities faced by our planet and society. Also collaborating with leading external sustainability experts, we strive to elevate CfS content and engage more productively in the broader concept of environmental, social and governance themes.

The ‘Plastic pollution: Pathways to net zero’ report is available at:
Center for Sustainability

If you require further information or would like to arrange an interview with the authors of the study in English or German, please do not hesitate to contact us.