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Quick Takes

Plastic Production Is On the Rise Worldwide — but Declining in Europe

Source: Statista.com, Oct. 2019

Total global production of plastics topped 359 million metric tons in 2018, continuing a measured but steady increase since 2008, according to Statista.com. Production in Europe, meanwhile, slowed to 61.8 million metric tons in 2018 from a peak of 64.4 million metric tons in 2017. According to Statista, 30% of all plastic produced in 2018 came from China, compared to 17% from Europe. 

In 2018, 9.4 million metric tons of plastic post-consumer waste were collected in Europe for recycling, as consumers and the industry pay more attention to plastic disposal and end use, according to a 2019 report by PlasticsEurope.  

The trade organization says the plastics industry employs more than 1.6 million people in Europe and contributed 28.8 billion euros to public finances and welfare in 2018.

What Is Contributing to Western Europe’s New Spike in COVID-19 Cases?

Source: Oliver Wyman

Note: Graphs show change in COVID-19 case counts between Jan. 22 – Sept. 23, 2020

Western Europe is experiencing a second spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in Spain and France. Testing improvements have allowed most Western European countries to catch a greater proportion of COVID-19 cases in mid-September compared to mid-April — however, this is not the case for all countries.

Travel and tourism contributed to some of these late-summer outbreaks. For instance, in Germany, nearly 40% of new infections were brought back by returning vacationers. Additionally, some groups of younger people have neglected to follow social distancing measures: 15- to 24-year-olds now represent 15% of new cases in the EU, a rate three times higher than recorded in April. Quarantine fatigue is also taking a toll, as increasing disillusionment with regulations is resulting in subsequent declines in social distancing.

To avoid broad lockdowns and business restrictions, governments are focusing on alternative prevention measures, such as mask mandates, targeted business closures and travel screenings for those returning from high-risk areas.

Health Care Companies Respond Most Effectively During COVID-19

Health care companies have responded most effectively to stakeholder needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 68% of stakeholders surveyed. Fifty-one percent of respondents say technology and communications companies responded best, followed by food and consumer goods companies, according to a recent study called A Test of Corporate Purpose

Eight in 10 stakeholders in the study also believe that companies with a strong corporate purpose are better equipped to respond effectively and authentically to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter events. “You don’t turn into a resilient company, a strong server of stakeholders overnight. That’s something you become over time with quite a lot of deliberate effort,” said Sara Murphy, head of research for TCP, to BRINK.

The Euro Dominates Global Sustainable Finance

Source: European Central Bank

The euro accounts for nearly half of sustainable capital market finances across the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The United States dollar accounts for 25% of sustainable finances, while a collection of other currencies make up the remaining 29%.

The European Commission states that its Green Deal can make the EU’s economy sustainable by “turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities and making the transition just and inclusive for all.” The COVID-19 pandemic presented such a challenge, and according to WEF, pandemic-related investments will also work in service of creating a “climate-neutral economy,” a goal it set to achieve by 2050. 

Investors are taking note, as the European Green Deal Investment Plan, introduced in January 2020, expects sustainable investment worth a minimum of a trillion euros from public and private sources to fund the region’s transition to a climate-neutral status.

Americans Are Less Willing to Get COVID Vaccine Now Compared to in May

Source: Pew Research Center

The percentage of Americans who say they are likely to immediately get a vaccine for COVID-19 has dropped from 72% to 51% since May — a 21 percentage point drop. Despite the continued increase in cases, only 21% of Americans surveyed said they would definitely get a vaccine, according to Pew Research Center.

Concern about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is the main reason for the drastic change — 78% said the development will move too quickly. Typically, vaccine development takes over a decade. Seventy-six percent of respondents are concerned about the possible side effects of the vaccine, and some cite concern about cost. However, the majority would be more willing to get vaccinated if they knew more about the development process.

The first vaccine trials started in March, and now, researchers are analyzing 42 vaccines in clinical trials on humans. Although the timeline for the vaccine still remains uncertain, the CDC says it will not be available to the public until summer of 2021. 

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