World Environment Day 2023 (5 June) celebrating its 50th year turned its attention to one of the largest pollutants in the world, plastic.
Within the last decade, plastic production has increased rapidly, amounting to roughly 400 million tonnes per year, a figure which is foreseen to double by 2040 . Researchers estimate that 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. These figures alone are shocking, not helped by the current turbulent social and economic backdrop globally, and pushback against ESG regulation proposals (particularly in the US).
However, through the actions of the United Nations, the tide might finally be turning on plastic pollution.
In March 2022, at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee set out a historic resolution to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement due by 2024, of which all 193 UN member states have signed in favour for.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report ahead of the second round of negotiations in Paris (29 May – 2 June). It set out the roadmap for solutions to beating plastic pollution and creating a circular economy, highlighting the need for governments, companies, and markets to come together to create deep rooted policy and regulation.
The roadmap has three simple, yet key targets needed to make the shift towards a circular economy.
- Reuse: Governments and companies promoting reusable options, and moving towards being a reusable society, something which could reduce plastic pollution by 30% by 2040.
- Recycle: Finding ways to make recycling a more attractive and profitable cause, reducing pollution by a further 20%.
- Reorient and diversity: The replacement of plastics with eco-friendly alternatives could also create a 17% decrease.
Alongside the prospect of a renewed, thriving ecosystem, there is also a significant economic and societal opportunity. The roadmap proposes that by 2040, industries could save up to $1.3 trillion; currently a staggering $2.2 trillion goes towards virgin plastic production. Also supporting societal needs, it is projected that there will be 12 million new jobs, as a circular economy requires a larger human workforce, compared to the current linear economy.
Emma Taylor is Account Executive at Quill PR