World News — Plastic pollution is a major environmental issue that has garnered the attention of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. With over 400 million tons of plastic produced around the world each year, it is no surprise that this problem affects not only marine life but also human health. The UN chief warns that “The more plastic we produce, the more fossil fuel we burn, and the worse we make the climate crisis”. Therefore, it is essential to take action now to reduce plastic pollution and pivot away from plastics.

Thankfully, a legally binding agreement involving over 130 nations remains on course to tackle plastic pollution. Moreover, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a new report showing that plastic pollution can be reduced by 80% by 2040 through circular economy and action. In this regard, governments, companies, and consumers must work together to break our addiction to plastics, champion zero waste, and build a truly circular economy.

The impact of plastics on our environment is truly alarming. Shocking statistics reveal that a meager 10% of plastics are recycled, leaving an estimated 19-23 million tonnes to find their way into our water bodies each year. To put things in perspective, this is equivalent to the weight of over 2,000 Eiffel Towers! Our food and air are also not spared from the pernicious effects of microplastics. It is estimated that every individual on Earth inhales or consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles annually. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the magnitude of the plastic pollution crisis.

The detrimental effects of single-use plastic on both human health and biodiversity are all too apparent. From mountaintops to the ocean floor, every ecosystem is polluted by discarded plastic waste. Fortunately, with our current understanding and available solutions, we possess the tools to address this crisis.

However, governments, companies, and other stakeholders must ramp up their efforts to tackle the issue with greater speed and scale. The international community must collaborate and take a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire lifecycle of plastics, including production, consumption, and disposal. Only then can we hope to mitigate the consequences of plastic waste and safeguard our planet’s natural habitats.

At a commemoration event marking World Environment Day at UN Headquarters in New York, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi spoke about the hazards posed by microplastics. He reiterated that we need to move away from a “throw-away” culture into a circular economy that relies steadfastly on science. Broad and systematic changes are needed, which operate for the long-term benefit of the world’s eight billion people. ECOSOC President Lachezara Stoeva stressed that beating the scourge was possible but that financial support, capacity building, and technical assistance should be provided to developing countries to facilitate their transition from unsustainable patterns of consumption and production to circular economic models that promote reusability and reduce waste.

To achieve an 80 percent reduction in plastic pollution by 2040 through circular economy and action, we need to take specific measures. Firstly, governments must implement policies that encourage the use of sustainable alternatives to plastics. They can also invest in infrastructure to recycle waste more efficiently. Companies, on the other hand, must reduce their reliance on plastic packaging and adopt sustainable production methods. They can also collaborate with governments and other stakeholders to develop innovative solutions to the plastic pollution problem.

Consumers too have a crucial role to play in reducing plastic pollution. By making conscious choices, such as avoiding single-use plastic products, carrying reusable bags and water bottles, and sorting waste for recycling, they can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Education and awareness campaigns can also help to encourage consumers to make these choices.

Conclusion

The UN report shows that an 80% reduction in plastic pollution by 2040 through circular economy and action is achievable. To achieve this goal, governments, companies, and consumers must work together to create a sustainable future that relies on science and innovation. By taking specific measures, such as investing in infrastructure, reducing reliance on plastic packaging, and making conscious choices, we can significantly reduce plastic pollution and promote a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.