About 430 million tons of plastic are produced annually, according to the United Nations, two-thirds of which are likely to be thrown away within minutes, days, or weeks of purchase. At current rates, plastic production is set to triple by 2060, with a concurrent rise in plastic pollution.
The problem is so big that the UN has set up an Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee to end plastic pollution, calling on member states to hash out a legally binding treaty that would govern all stages of the plastic lifecycle, from production to disposal.
Such a treaty would mean less plastic production, lower carbon emissions, better recycling and waste collection, more reusable products, and more products made from recycled materials – all of which would create a healthier, cleaner environment.
Negotiations are currently ongoing and a “zero draft” has been settled on, with proposals ranging from ambitious global bans on all single use plastic packaging and per-ton plastic production taxes that could eliminate plastic pollution by 2040, to an apathetic approach that would see voluntary reductions decided at a national level.
Among the proposals, one of the most impactful would be a requirement that all new plastic products and packaging must be made from a minimum amount of recycled material.
If single-use packaging, such as plastic straws, shopping bags, cutlery, and expanded polystyrene food containers were to be phased out, they could be replaced by less polluting alternatives and reuse systems. The return of reusable glass and metal containers, along with a modern system to collect, wash, and refill could involve a little more work on our end, but it also means more jobs at the bottling smd refilling plants.
While delegates from more than 175 countries try to figure out the way forward that can work for everyone, it is also upon us to do what we can at our level, to reduce plastic use, consumption, and waste, because there is no international treaty necessary for that to happen. We would only need our collective determination to do something about this global issue that our wasteful lifestyles have been causing.*