Public overwhelmingly backs global ban on single-use plastics, Ipsos survey finds

Plastic pollution presents major threats to the environment, and global citizens say they’ve had enough. Picture: Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas / AFP

Plastic pollution presents major threats to the environment, and global citizens say they’ve had enough. Picture: Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas / AFP

Published Apr 16, 2024


A recent Ipsos survey conducted across 32 countries, including South Africa, revealed an overwhelming consensus among global citizens in favour of banning single-use plastics as part of a forthcoming global plastic pollution treaty.

The survey, commissioned by WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation, underscores the pressing need to address the escalating crisis of plastic pollution.

The survey, which engaged over 24,000 individuals worldwide, found that an average of 85% of respondents advocate for a ban on single-use plastics, citing their significant contribution to ocean pollution.

“With more than 430 million tonnes of virgin plastic produced each year – 60% of which are single-use – and only 9% of that plastic currently recycled worldwide, a global ban on single-use plastics, deemed unnecessary, avoidable, and harmful, is one of several in a suite of urgent measures the public wants to see in the treaty,” the WWF said.

The survey also found that public sentiment has intensified in recent years, with citizens demanding decisive action to mitigate the environmental and societal impact of plastic pollution, especially around our marine ecosystems.

The findings come at a critical juncture, coinciding with the fourth round of negotiations for a global plastic pollution treaty, scheduled to take place in Ottawa, Canada, from April 23 to 29.

In addition to advocating for a ban on single-use plastics, respondents also expressed strong support for prohibiting hazardous chemicals used in plastics, with 90% of participants endorsing such a measure.

Moreover, 87% of respondents favoured banning plastic products that cannot be easily recycled, highlighting the widespread recognition of the need for comprehensive action to address the plastic pollution crisis.

The survey findings back the growing consensus among citizens worldwide that bans alone are insufficient to address the complex challenges posed by plastic pollution.

Respondents overwhelmingly support the redesign of the current plastics system to prioritise reuse and recycling, with 87% backing measures to mandate manufacturers to invest in reusable and refillable systems.

Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Lead at WWF International, emphasised the disconnect between public sentiment and the negotiation process for the global plastic pollution treaty.

“Few ordinary citizens are involved in the negotiations for a global plastic pollution treaty despite living on the frontlines of the crisis. Yet the survey shows citizens have a high level of awareness, concern and engagement on what is needed to end plastic pollution and are rejecting the toxic and unjust plastics ecosystem that’s been imposed on them through lax laws and profit-oriented businesses,” said Lindebjerg.

In South Africa, survey participants echoed the global sentiment, emphasising the importance of implementing bans on single-use plastics and hazardous chemicals used in plastics.

The survey revealed strong South African support for measures to enhance recycling infrastructure and ensure equitable access to funding and resources for plastic waste management.

Nearly nine in 10 South African survey participants believe it’s important that global rules require all plastic manufacturers to pay fees that cover the costs of reuse, recycling and safe management of plastic waste (85%).

The WWF survey findings coincide with the release of a similar report compiled by Greenpeace which also found “overwhelming public support for the Global Plastics Treaty to cut plastic production, end single-use plastics and advance reuse-based solutions”.