Plastic Overshoot Day marks the point when the amount of plastic waste generated exceeds the world’s capacity to manage it, resulting in environmental pollution. In 2023, the global Plastic Overshoot Day is projected to occur on July 28th. Each country has its own Plastic Overshoot Day, which is determined by the amount of plastic waste generated and the country’s capacity to manage it. 

To facilitate targeted and effective solutions, ten country archetypes have been established, enabling the profiling of countries based on factors such as local per capita plastic consumption, the import and export volumes of waste, and the country’s waste treatment capabilities. By considering these archetypes, we can present recommendations tailored to each country’s unique circumstances. These recommendations aim to empower countries to improve their Overshoot Day and mitigate plastic pollution. They include strategies such as reducing plastic consumption and usage, promoting circular economy models such as repair and reuse initiatives, implementing robust waste management policies like extended producer responsibilities (EPR), enhancing local waste management infrastructure, and ceasing the import of plastic waste from other countries. By adopting the measures relevant to their situation, countries can make significant progress in combatting plastic pollution.

Country archetypes

Each country has unique realities related to plastic pollution – including plastic usage levels, waste management infrastructure, and relevant policies – Plastic Overshoot Day looked to establish categories so that countries could be profiled and relevant and meaningful solutions could be presented and explored.

The transactors

The Transactors are countries with very high rates of plastic consumption and use. Their waste tends to be well-managed, although most do not yet have extensive circular systems around plastics. The Transactors are wealthy countries, mostly Western, along with Singapore. They export a lot of their waste but also import a lot of waste from neighboring countries. Through this exchange of waste with their trade partners they have been able to optimize their waste management practices, resulting in a low volume of waste ending up mismanaged and low risk of plastic leakage into the environment.

The Self-Sustainers

The Self-Sustainers are medium to high consumers of plastic that are able to manage their waste internally and do not rely heavily on exporting it to other countries. They use sustainable waste management practices and invest in infrastructure to handle their waste domestically.

The Strugglers

The Strugglers are medium to high consumers of plastic that export little of their waste to other countries. Domestically they face significant challenges in managing their waste and may be struggling with issues like inadequate infrastructure, insufficient resources, or a lack of proper waste management regulations and policies.

The Overloaders

The Overloaders are high consumers of plastic, who export a significant amount of their waste. Their waste is well managed. Unlike the similarly high-consuming Transactors, the Overloaders do not import waste in exchange for the waste they export. This imbalance therefore overloads the waste management systems of other countries, likely creating mismanagement issues in locales where Overloaders send their plastic waste.

The Toxic Exporters

The Toxic Exporters are high consumers of plastic, with waste that is mismanaged at high levels, typically after it has been exported. These countries are significant participants in the global waste trade and often the Toxic Exporters export their waste to places that do not have proper waste management infrastructure. Plastic pollution in many countries is impacted by waste that was mismanaged after being received from Toxic Exporters.

The Waste Saviors

The Waste Saviors have moderate plastic consumption levels and manage their waste relatively well. These countries have an overall positive influence on the global waste crisis, assuming responsibility for managing waste from other countries in addition to their own.

The Waste Sponges

The Waste Sponges have a low consumption of plastic yet a high level of plastic pollution arising from it. Waste Sponges are making efforts to address the global waste crisis absorbing waste from other countries but are struggling to manage their own waste in addition to waste from other countries.

The Selective Exporters

The Selective Exporters have a low or medium consumption of plastic, export some of it abroad and treat the rest locally, with average to good waste management practices.

The Exporting Polluters

The Exporting Polluters have a low to medium plastic consumption levels. A notable amount of their waste is exported with the rest being managed locally. These countries do not effectively manage their waste and negative environmental impacts result both domestically and in the countries receiving The Exporting Polluters’ waste.

The Small-Scale Inward Polluters

Despite their low plastic consumption levels, the Small-Scale Inward Polluters contribute to plastic pollution levels due to their poor waste management practices. These countries do not export any waste, so the burden of the mismanagement and resulting pollution occurs in their local environment.

A key tenet of EA’s philosophy and commitment to support collective problem-solving is transparency. Check out a detailed description about Plastic Overshoot Day in the expanded methodology.

Plastic Overshoot Day is an initiative led by the non-for-profit arm of EA – Environmental Action, based in Lausanne.