23 May 2022
In a letter submitted to the leading journal Science, scientists from various universities call for a reduction in the production of plastic worldwide. If this is not done, plastic pollution will not be stopped.
Earlier this year the United Nations decided that a treaty was needed to prevent plastic pollution. The negotiations on the substance of the treaty will start this month. What the treaty contains is crucial in ensuring that the pollution really is reduced.
Read the ‘A global plastic treaty must cap production here. It is a plea that could come straight from the heart of Plastic Soup Foundation.
THE PRESENT SITUATION IS UNTENABLE
If unrestricted, the annual production of plastic will double from around its current level of 450 million tonnes to 900 million tonnes in 2045. The scientists point to there being more plastic on earth in terms of weight than the weight of all land and sea animals put together. Governments are unable to ensure the safety of all plastics and their associated chemicals. Furthermore, plastic pollution has exceeded the planetary boundary.
THE MEASURES ANNOUNCED NOW ARE INADEQUATE
The biggest problem is the increase in new, virgin plastic. Even if we would consider all the measures announced to rein in the plastic soup, a large part (21% over 20 years) would still leak into the environment. The measures include improved recycling, replacing plastic by other materials, and taxing plastic.
If, as an additional and essential measure, plastic production would be stopped altogether, everyone would benefit. There would be less plastic on the market leading to less waste, and because there would be less plastic, the value of recycled plastic would rise, thereby leading to more recycling.
A PRODUCTION STOP IS THE ONLY WAY OUT
To really stop plastic pollution, a complete stop on the production of new plastic is unavoidable. The scientists conclude that between now and 2040, virgin plastic should be phased out and that this measure should be part of the UN’s international plastic treaty.
This reflects a previous call in Science which emphasised that a solution must be found in dealing with the entire life cycle of plastic. In other words, not only steps taken to process and control waste, but to reduce the amount of plastic that is produced.
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