Tak­ing Ac­tion Against Plas­tic

To kerb the dis­as­trous en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of plas­tics, a new re­port re­leased by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum pro­vides a tan­gi­ble plan for the global plas­tics in­dus­try to take ac­tion across all types of plas­tic pack­ag­ing.

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL -

In just over half a cen­tury, plas­tics have be­come per­va­sive through­out the econ­omy, due to their ver­sa­til­ity and cost-ef­fi­ciency. Yet along­side clear ben­e­fits, to­day’s plas­tics sys­tem has sig­nif­i­cant draw­backs. This need not be the case, how­ever.

As much as 20% of plas­tic pack­ag­ing could be prof­itably reused and 50% of plas­tic pack­ag­ing could be prof­itably re­cy­cled if im­prove­ments are made to de­sign and af­ter-use sys­tems. The re­main­ing 30% of plas­tic pack­ag­ing (by weight), equiv­a­lent to 10 bil­lion garbage bags per year, is cur­rently by de­sign des­tined for land­fill or in­cin­er­a­tion, and re­quires fun­da­men­tal re­design and in­no­va­tion; oth­er­wise, it will never be re­cy­cled. This is ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port pub­lished by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Ellen MacArthur Foun­da­tion and McKin­sey & Com­pany. The re­port ti­tled ‘The New

Plas­tics Econ­omy: Catalysing ac­tion’ pro­vides a tan­gi­ble plan for the global plas­tics in­dus­try to take ac­tion across all types of plas­tic pack­ag­ing, to de­sign bet­ter pack­ag­ing, in­crease re­cy­cling rates, and in­tro­duce new mod­els for mak­ing bet­ter use of pack­ag­ing.

Con­tin­u­ing with the cur­rent busi­ness-as-usual sce­nario, pro­jected growth in plas­tics pro­duc­tion could lead to the oceans con­tain­ing more plas­tics than fish (by weight) by 2050, and the en­tire plas­tics in­dus­try could be con­sum­ing 20% of to­tal oil pro­duc­tion and 15% of the an­nual car­bon bud­get.

Look­ing at the full range of plas­tic prod­ucts (not just pack­ag­ing), con­cerns have been raised about the po­ten­tial neg­a­tive im­pact of some sub­stances, such as cer­tain ph­tha­lates in PVC and bisphe­nol A in poly­car­bon­ate, on so­ci­ety and the econ­omy.

Plas­tic pack­ag­ing – the fo­cus of the New Plas­tics Econ­omy ini­tia­tive – is plas­tics’ largest ap­pli­ca­tion, rep­re­sent­ing 26% of the to­tal vol­ume.

Most plas­tic pack­ag­ing is used only once and 95% of its value, es­ti­mated at $80 bil­lion-$120 bil­lion an­nu­ally, is lost to the econ­omy af­ter its ini­tial use. Ad­di­tion­ally, plas­tic pack­ag­ing, which is par­tic­u­larly prone to leak­age into the en­vi­ron­ment, gen­er­ates neg­a­tive ex­ter­nal­i­ties, degra­da­tion of nat­u­ral sys­tems and green­house gas emis­sions, that have been val­ued con­ser­va­tively by UNEP at $40 bil­lion. For these rea­sons, plas­tics and plas­tic pack­ag­ing have grad­u­ally mor­phed from a fringe to a main­stream is­sue.

The global mo­men­tum for a plas­tics re­think has trig­gered a broad group of stake­hold­ers to act. Pol­icy-mak­ers are in­tro­duc­ing land­mark leg­is­la­tion world­wide, af­fect­ing plas­tics and plas­tic pack­ag­ing, with ex­am­ples from 2016 in­clud­ing:

• fur­ther na­tional reg­u­la­tions on sin­gle-use plas­tic bags in In­done­sia,

Colombia, and Morocco;

• a ban on non-biodegrad­able plas­tic cut­lery, cups and plates in France; • a ban on EPS pack­ag­ing in San Fran­cisco.

In Novem­ber 2016, cit­i­zens of Cal­i­for­nia ap­proved Propo­si­tion 67, which pro­hibits gro­cery and other stores from pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with sin­gle-use plas­tic take­away bags. This is in ad­di­tion to more 130 reg­u­la­tions, at a city level and coun­ty­wide, across 20 states, gov­ern­ing plas­tic pack­ag­ing in the United States alone.

Im­por­tantly, the EU Com­mis­sion aims to pub­lish a strat­egy on plas­tics as part of its Cir­cu­lar Econ­omy Ac­tion Plan by the end of 2017. The NGO com­mu­nity is also in­ten­si­fy­ing its ef­forts, as shown by the #break­freefromplas­tic move­ment. Launched in Septem­ber 2016, the move­ment, which aims for a fu­ture free from plas­tic pol­lu­tion, grew to over 500 mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions in just a cou­ple of weeks. Aca­demic ex­perts are in­creas­ingly study­ing plas­tics and their im­pact on the econ­omy and so­ci­ety. Aside from plas­tics leak­age into the ocean, the im­pact of sub­stances of con­cern in plas­tics (not just pack­ag­ing) is one ac­tive area of re­search. Be­sides poly­mers, plas­tics con­tain a broad range of other sub­stances, with some of them rais­ing con­cerns about com­plex long-term ex­po­sure and com­pound ef­fects on hu­man health.

Down­load the full re­port at:

Global cam­paign to stop plas­tic pol­lu­tion pre­sented at Rio Earth Sum­mit. Ti­tle: ‘Just be­cause you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn´t there.' Im­age: Ferdi Rizkiyanto.

Three dis­tinct tran­si­tions strate­gies to ac­cel­er­ate the shift to­wards the New Plas­tics Econ­omy (share of plas­tic-pack­ag­ing market by weight).

Ocean Con­ser­vancy's Trash Free Seas Al­liance es­ti­mates that 8 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of plas­tic en­ter the ocean each year. www.ocean­healthin­dex.org

The New Plas­tics Econ­omy and its three am­bi­tions. Source: The New Plas­tics Econ­omy – Re­think­ing the fu­ture of plas­tics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.