Plastics Management Index Ranks Germany 1st Globally, Followed by JapanJoint Economist Impact – The Nippon Foundation initiative ranks countries’ capacity to minimize plastics mismanagement while promoting optimal production and use

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Back to Blue, an ocean health initiative of The Nippon Foundation and Economist Impact, has released the first edition of its Plastics Management Index (PMI). The index ranks 25 countries worldwide across five continents, assessing the capacity of a country to minimize plastics mismanagement while promoting the optimal production and use of plastic as a resource. The index comprises three pillars – governance, existing systemic capacity, and stakeholder engagement – measured across 12 indicators and 44 individual sub-indicators.

The world produces and uses more plastic each year, with 367 million metric tons manufactured in 2020. With production forecast to double by 2040, plastic is not the world’s only pollution challenge, but it is arguably the most prominent. The scale of the challenge demands a new framework that covers the entire lifecycle of plastic products, from design and production to consumption, disposal, and beyond. The PMI is designed to bring attention to growing global concerns regarding the use of plastic, and highlight how its management can be made sustainable.

The report shows that Germany is the top performer overall in plastics management, scoring 87 points out of 100. Ranking first for governance and stakeholder engagement and third for systemic capacity, this is largely because of the country’s recycling program, which has been implemented by the government and industry and has resulted in a circular economy for plastics.

Despite producing half of the world’s plastics, Asia lags in global plastics management efforts compared with Europe. Europe leads the overall ranking largely because of the proactivity of the European Union and the region’s ability to fund innovation and research. Asia-Pacific countries largely make up the middle of the table, followed by countries in Latin America and in Africa.

While Japan stands out among its regional peers, the country falls short in terms of the third category: stakeholder management. Placing third overall for this category was largely because of its 24th place ranking in the sub-category of responsible consumer actions and perceptions and 16th place for private sector commitments to reduce plastics waste and promote responsible plastics use, especially with business practices.

Similar to Germany, Japan underperforms in terms of efficient collection and sorting channels, where it was ranked seventh, which dragged down its overall score for the systemic capacity category.

Other highlights

  • Only three Asia-Pacific countries ranked in the top 10: Japan (2nd); Australia (7th); and China (10th)
  • Europe leads in global plastics management efforts, while Asia lags – despite producing half the world’s plastics
  • The top performers in each region are: Middle East and Africa: Ghana (15th); South America: Chile (9th); Europe: Germany (1st); and Asia-Pacific: Japan (2nd)
  • Most lower- and middle-income countries struggle across the board—although Vietnam (11th) and Ghana (15th) outperformed
  • China (10th), the world’s largest plastics producer, is developing the capacity to manage plastics but lags on stakeholder engagement
  • Japan performs well in overall governance and systemic capacity but falls behind in stakeholder engagement

Comments from The Nippon Foundation and Economist Impact

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation

The path the world is on with plastics is plainly unsustainable. Already plastics leakage is doing untold damage to our ocean. The scale of the challenge is startling, and in urgent need of cohesive and effective solutions that can address every element of the complex lifecycle of plastics. The Plastics Management Index, I hope, will shed light on where we are globally, and where we need to be headed to manage plastics more effectively and responsibly.

Naka Kondo, Manager, Policy and Insights, Japan, at Economist Impact and editor of the PMI report

We have created the Plastics Management Index as a new benchmark for measuring how countries are coping with plastics from cradle to grave–just as the need, and interest, globally builds for managing plastics across their entire lifecycle, rather than with piecemeal approaches such as plastic bag bans. Quite a few countries continue to struggle, though the index identifies real currents of hope. But equally, just because countries appear to be performing well does not mean they are doing enough to address the issues.

Overall rankings

The top performers in each pillar are as follows:


  1. Germany
  2. Japan
  3. France
  4. United States
  5. Sweden

Systemic capacity

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. United States
  5. France

Stakeholder engagement

  1. Germany
  2. Malaysia
  3. Japan
  4. Australia
  5. Chile

The full report is available at the Black to Blue website.

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