Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental problems and challenges facing humanity today: more than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide every year, half of these have a single-use life, less than 10 % is recycled and an estimated 19-23 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in lakes, rivers and oceans every year.
Governments, businesses, NGOs and society at large know that a radical change is needed in the production, consumption and management of plastic waste. For this reason, in March 2022 in Nairobi, at the United Nations Environment Assembly, representatives of 175 countries concerned about the growing problem of single-use plastic met and agreed by consensus that they must work quickly and take bold and decisive action to reverse this situation.
As a result, a legally binding agreement is being drafted by the end of 2024. This treaty will provide for global rules and obligations across the entire life cycle of plastic. This historic environmental pact is one of the most important in recent times since the Paris Agreement.
For the leaders of UN Member States, it is worrying how plastic is wreaking havoc on nature: species are ingesting it or it has become death traps in the oceans; in addition, microplastics (particles no larger than five micromillimetres that result from the disintegration of larger plastics), are present in the air, water and food, and are affecting people’s health.
The entire plastic cycle: design, production, use and disposal must move towards a circular economy, as the proper management of plastic waste is crucial and determinant for climate change and biodiversity loss especially in the oceans where most of this material ends up.
A circular economy approach to plastic must ensure that products are designed in such a way that at the end of their useful life they can be reused, repaired or remanufactured, thus avoiding the extraction of the planet’s finite resources and the generation of waste that ends up in the environment.
This implies a change in the way society consumes and technological innovation and development to make it possible to reduce the use of plastic in production and minimise the impact of plastic on nature.
In the next issue we will be presenting how Cercarbono and Global Zero Waste are tackling this global problem.