Plastic Packaging Waste: What It Is, & What To Know

When you take a look at plastic waste numbers, plastic packaging makes up almost half of total waste numbers.

In this guide, we look at what plastic packaging is, and other important stats and information about it.


Summary – What Is Plastic Packaging, & What To Know About Plastic Packaging Waste

Plastic packaging waste is so prevalent because of:

1. The nature of plastic packaging and how it’s used – it’s usually a single use type plastic, or a plastic with a short lifespan (or both)

2. The sheer quantity of it produced, and the amount that becomes waste 


Plastic packaging can come in HDPE, LDPE, PET/PETE, PP, Polystyrene and PVC types.

It’s usually used to protect and deliver a product from the manufacturer to the consumer, but it can have different uses depending on the industry.

It’s used in every industry, but heavily used in food and beverage, health care, personal care and cosmetics, consumer packaged goods, and home and garden products.

Of all plastic packaging waste – roughly 14% goes to recycling plants, a third goes to the environment, and 40% ends up in landfill

Some estimates say plastic packaging waste might represent an $80 billion loss to the economy annually


Plastic Packaging Generated Yearly

In 2015, plastic produced went to these sectors of society:

Packaging – 35.9%

Building & Construction – 16%

Textiles – 14.5%

Other – 11.5%

Consumer & Institutional Products – 10.3%

Transportation – 6.6%

Electrical/Electronic – 4.4%

Industrial/Machinery – 0.7%



Plastic production by sector in 2015, measured in tonnes per year, was:

Packaging – 146 million tonnes

Building & Construction – 65 million tonnes

Other sectors – 59 million tonnes

Textiles – 47 million tonnes

Consumer & Institutional Products – 42 million tonnes

Transportation – 27 million tonnes

Electrical/Electronic – 18 million tonnes

Industrial Machinery – 3 million tonnes



Plastic Packaging Waste Generated Yearly

Global plastic waste generation in 2015, measured in tonnes per year, was:

Packaging – 141 million tonnes

Other sectors – 42 million tonnes

Textiles – 38 million tonnes

Consumer & Institutional Products – 37 million tonnes

Transportation – 17 million tonnes

Electrical/Electronic – 13 million tonnes

Building & Construction – 13 million tonnes

Industrial Machinery – 1 million tonnes



A large reason plastic packaging waste is more prevalent is that a lot of it is single use, low lifespan plastic.

This is in comparison to say Construction for example that might use a lot of plastic, but that plastic might be used for 30 years – like for example PVC pipes in homes and other applications.


What Is Plastic Packaging?

It’s plastic used to protect and deliver a product from the manufacturer to the consumer.


Plastic Packaging By Industry

Plastic packaging is used in all industries.

Specifically though, it’s used in:

Food and beverage,

Health care,

Personal care and cosmetics,

Consumer packaged goods,

And, home and garden products




Plastic Packaging By Type

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Used to make many bottles and containers, and bags for grocery and retail stores

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Used for plastic film, and for sealing applications (Bags for dry cleaning, newspapers, bread, frozen foods, fresh produce, and household garbage. Shrink wrap and stretch film, etc.)

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)

Used for plastic bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash, catsup and salad dressing.

Food jars for peanut butter, jelly, jam and pickles.

Ovenable film and microwavable food trays.

Polypropylene (PP)

Used for containers for yogurt, margarine, takeout meals, and deli foods.

Medicine bottles. Bottle caps and closures.

Bottles for catsup and syrup.


Use for food service items, such as cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, hinged takeout containers (clamshells), meat and poultry trays, and rigid food containers 

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, Vinyl)

Used for both rigid and flexible packaging applications


Read more about the types of plastic packaging the associated uses at


Other Plastic Packaging Stats

Just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally makes its way to recycling plants, a third is left in fragile ecosystems, and 40% ends up in landfill.

[economically] … Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year









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