Special Report

This Company Produces the Most Plastic Waste in the World

While some forms of plastic break down in 20 years, others take as long as 500. Millions of tons of plastic make their way into oceans each year. The company that produces the most plastic is Exxon Mobil.

Plastic waste has become one of the greatest environmental disasters in history, and it is unlikely to end any time soon. Plastic is used in numerous items used by consumers and companies.

Efforts to reverse the situation amount to a drop in the ocean. Plastic recycling programs are better than nothing, but they are hardly a panacea. A 2019 peer-reviewed study in the journal Science Advances concluded that only 9% of plastic gets recycled and that most of the rest ends up in landfills and the natural environment, including oceans. You won’t believe how deep ocean plastic is found.

Worse still, production of single-use plastics is predicted by some sources to increase by 30% over the next five years.

To identify the company generating the most waste from single-use plastic manufacturing, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2019 data from “The Plastic Waste Makers Index,” published in 2021 by the Minderoo Foundation, an Australia-based philanthropic organization.

U.S.-based oil and gas giant, Exxon Mobil, generated 6.5 million tons of single-use plastic waste in 2019 — the most of any company. The company had revenue of $178.2 billion in 2020 and a loss of $22.4 billion, based on Forbes figures.

Producers of consumer products are the main culprits of single-use plastic waste. Break Free From Plastic, a global network of environmentalists that audits discarded plastic waste, names Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé as the top global polluters of plastic waste. (Some of these companies are among the world’s most valuable brands.)

But companies like this don’t actually produce the raw materials that become your shampoo bottle, single-serving water bottle, or takeaway food container and utensils. The raw materials for these and other disposable consumer plastics are pellet-sized polymers produced by the global petroleum industry. And many of the companies on this list are oil and gas and chemical companies.

Click here to see the companies that produce the most plastic waste around the world

Methodology

To identify the company generating the most waste from single-use plastic manufacturing, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data in “The Plastic Waste Makers Index,” published this year by the Minderoo Foundation, an Australia-based philanthropy. Companies are ranked on the plastic waste generated in 2019, measured in millions of tons (converted from metric tons). Most recently available annual revenue and profit figures came from the Forbes Global 2000, a list of the world’s largest 2,000 public companies in the world, as well as from publicly available financial documents. (Figures in a foreign currency were converted to U.S. dollars.)