PARIS: According to Friday’s findings, a world severely affected by global plastic waste pollution will see its use triple within the next four decades.
Global Plastic Waste Production
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2060 will see an increase in the annual production of plastics made from fossil-fuel-derived materials to 1.2 billion tonnes and an increase in waste to more than one billion tonnes.
The report by 38 nations projects that plastic production could almost double in 40 years if there were aggressive actions to reduce demand and increase efficiencies.
However, such globally coordinated policies could significantly increase the percentage of recycled plastic waste in the future, from 12% to 40%.
International concern is growing about the volume and impact of plastic pollution.
Plastic has become an integral part of modern life. Its low production costs and numerous benefits such as low weight, durability, and flexibility make it a popular choice. But plastics’ adverse effects on our health and the environment are significant concerns.
Microplastics were discovered in fish and other marine life and have been locked within Arctic ice.
It is estimated that the debris causes more than one million deaths yearly among seabirds and marine mammals.
Mathias Cormann, chief of OECD, stated that plastic pollution was one of the most significant environmental challenges of the 21st Century. It causes widespread damage to ecosystems as well as human health.
Plastic has been produced in more than 8.3 billion tonnes since 1950. More than 60% of this plastic was disposed of in landfills, burnt, or dumped into rivers and oceans.
In 2019, plastics were used at a staggering 460 million tonnes, twice the amount of 20 years ago.
Plastic waste has nearly doubled to 350 million tonnes. However, less than 10% of it is recycled.
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The report shows that business as usual is not the best option. It also highlights global policies’ benefits to reducing plastic use and pollution.
The OECD warns that plastic production will increase due to economic growth and increasing population.
The handling of waste is where policies can make a big difference.
Nearly 100 million tonnes of plastic waste are currently being mismanaged and allowed to leach into the environment. This number is expected to increase by 2060.
The report concludes that “coordinated and ambitious global efforts could almost eliminate plastic pollution by 2060.”
The United Nations initiated a process earlier this year to create an internationally binding treaty that would limit plastic pollution.
It is encouraging to see that the UN system is taking concrete steps to tackle the increasing threat of plastic pollution.
Representatives from 175 countries signed a treaty to limit plastic pollution at the UN Environment Assembly’s fifth session in Nairobi on March 1. This treaty proposes to create legally binding mechanisms that limit plastic pollution and curb the production of single-use plastics.
Proponents of the global plastics treaty have compared it to 2015’s Paris Agreement, in which nations agreed to set national targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to remember that the global plastics treaty promises that all countries will come together to form a treaty to reduce plastic pollution. It will likely take several years to finalize the details of an actual treaty.
Countries such as India are already expressing concern about the proposed treaty and requesting that any actions are taken to combat plastics be voluntary. The US also raised objections to a reference to curbing plastic production chemicals. It remains to be seen how the final treaty on plastic pollution will look.
Plastic waste is a severe problem. Plastics can cause serious harm both during their production and afterwards. The effects of microplastics on ecosystems are devastating. They have infiltrated our food and water supplies. The world continues to consume more plastic than it produces. Despite the emphasis placed on recycling, less than a tenth is recycled. Instead, most plastic is only used once before it becomes waste.
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Many poorer countries have inadequate plastic waste management policies. They also face increasing plastic imports. In 2020, more than 180 countries agreed to limit plastic waste exports to poorer countries. This was known as the Basel Convention. The United States did not ratify this treaty, and violations by signatory countries of its rules are still rampant.
It is difficult to stem the flow of plastic waste from wealthy nations to poorer countries. Implementing a legally binding treaty that will curb global plastic production is even more challenging.
A treaty to limit plastic production will have significant implications for corporations that use plastic packaging to ship their products. It would also impact oil and chemical companies that produce raw plastics.
It will take a lot of political will and concerted pressure from citizens and environmental groups to transition away from plastics. Coca-Cola, the world’s largest plastic bottle producer, has increased its recycling efforts to preserve its brand image due to increasing pressure from consumers and environmental groups.
There is still much to be done to stop plastic waste from being produced and reduce the amount of plastic waste poisoning the Earth.