What is plastic?

The term plastic covers a wide range of materials that can be derived from either petroleum sources or plants. The consumption and production of plastics have recently surged, with more than half of all plastics being manufactured after 2005. ​

million metric tones*

This is the amount of plastic produced worldwide every year.

For several years now, this material has been used in modern applications such as electronics, medical devices, textile fibres and 3D printing.​

* Source: OECD 2022

Distribution of the global plastics use by application*

* Source: Plastics – The facts 2022, PlasticsEurope

Packaging 44%
Building and construction 18%
Others (includes appliances, mechanical, engineering, furniture, medical, etc.) 12%
Automotive 8%
Electrical and electronics 7%
Household, leisure and sports 7%
Agriculture, farming and gardening 4%

What do you use it for and why?

Plastic is widely used in industry. Plastic packaging is essential to meet hygiene standards. It provides a protective barrier against contamination, preventing large quantities of foodstuffs from ending up as waste. By preventing the proliferation of bacteria, packaging prolongs the shelf-life of food. ​

Wrapping bananas in perforated plastic film multiplies their shelf life by :


As a cheap and lightweight product, plastic packaging also simplifies the transportation of goods, consuming less energy and emitting fewer greenhouse gases compared to glass or aluminum packaging !

* Source: McEwen Associates/ Flexible Packaging Association’s (FPA)
“ The Value Of Flexible Packaging in Extending Shelf Life and Reducing Food Waste ”

Of the 353 million tonnes of plastic waste produced annually*, around:

* Source: OECD 2022

177 million tonnes are sent to controlled landfill sites, i.e. 50%
78 million tonnes are unmanaged and uncontrolled, i.e. 22%
67 million tonnes are incinerated, i.e. 19%
Only 31 million tonnes are recycled, i.e. 9%

What happens to it afterwards?

Every year, 353 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated worldwide. Of this total, 9% is recycled, 19% is incinerated, 50% is disposed of in controlled landfill sites, and 22% remains unmanaged and uncontrolled*.


Plastic waste comes from products with a lifespan of less than 5 years.

Although recycling is becoming more widespread, the figures are still low. Every year, more than 8 million tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean. Finding new more environmentally-friendly ways of disposing of plastic has become a major societal challenge.​

While the practice of recycling is becoming more widespread, recycling rates, particularly in France, still remain low. Furthermore, the increasing number of regulations worldwide is forcing us to reconsider our approach to managing plastic waste at the end of its lifecycle. This challenge is becoming increasingly important for society as a whole, as we strive to reduce the environmental impact of plastic production.

* Source: OECD 2022

The seven types of plastic

The first step in the fight against plastic pollution is to stop producing plastics that cannot be disposed of sustainably. Here are the 7 main types of plastic* to help you identify them:

* Source: Plastics – The Facts 2022, PlasticsEurope


Polyethylene terephtalate

Uses: to make bottles (water, soda, oil, etc.), polyester fibres, films and food packaging

It is a clear, strong and lightweight plastic.

Recyclability: good if not soiled


High-density polyethylene

Uses: bottles of water, fizzy drinks, fruit juice or vegetable oil, peanut butter jars, egg containers, disposable packaging, food trays

It is a rigid, resistant plastic.

Recyclability: good if not soiled


Polyvinyl chloride

Uses: plastic food wrap, vegetable oil bottles, peanut butter jars, lunch bags

It is a rigid, flexible plastic.

Recyclability: low due to the presence of numerous additives


Low-density polyethylene 

Uses: plastic bags, plastic food film, inner film of Tetra Pak-type containers, freezer bags, etc.

It is a light, inexpensive plastic, but fragile.

Recyclability: low because they are difficult to identify in sorting processes



Uses: feeding bottles, yoghurt and margarine tubs, transparent containers for ready meals, reusable food containers suitable for microwaves

It’s a strong, resistant plastic.

Recyclability: good



Uses: disposable plastic tableware, coffee cups and lids, certain food containers (e.g. egg cartons)

It’s a lightweight plastic that’s fragile and easily crumbles.

Recyclability: extremely low

29.5% of which 9.8% are circular (recycled or bio-sourced)

Other plastics (PC, PTFE, PLA…)

Uses: very varied

Recyclability: generally very low due to the high presence of additives

The main waste sorting logos

What about compostable plastics? ​


Regarding compostable plastic sorting, there is a wide variety of logos which are not always that clear.  Warning: plastic that can be home composted can be composted in industrial facilities, but the opposite is not true.​