Plastic wastes present formidable problems as they are at present not biodegradable, are bulky and can resist incineration. Incineration in fact may not be possible due to production of noxious or toxic fumes. Inadequate levels of recycling aggravate the waste problem. In addition, plastic waste is a major loss of an important commodity.
By 2017, the world consumed more than 1 million plastic water bottles per minute or roughly 20,000 per second. Companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi have captured major market shares in India, but have not taken any interest in ensuring the plastic bottles (made of PET) are recycled. While the old glass bottles were reused, PET scrap is not worth enough to ensure recovery because the two PET recyclers are importing subsidized scrap from Europe and the USA. As a result, plastic bottles and thin-film bags are littered everywhere in India, blighting heritage areas, blocking drains and killing cows. Laws requiring use of virgin materials and thicker bags have not solved the problem.
In Somalia, nylon bags discarded by purchasers of Qat (the narcotic-like green leaf which most Somali males buy and chew) cause severe problems for native vegetation. The bags become wrapped in their branches and around their roots. The plants cannot get adequate air and water to sustain themselves and many die.