Plastic pollution has become a pressing global issue with severe environmental, health, and economic consequences. The United Nations recently released “Turning off the Tap: how the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy,” a comprehensive report that delves into the challenges posed by plastic waste and presents a transformative systems change scenario.
This report emphasizes the importance of developing economic, fiscal, and business models that can effectively address the impacts of plastic pollution while safeguarding the livelihoods of communities currently reliant on the plastics industry. The proposed systems change scenario aims to address the root causes of plastic pollution, enabling countries to transition towards a circular plastics economy that eliminates plastic waste while creating sustainable jobs and business opportunities.
Three Key Shifts for a Circular Plastics Economy:
The report outlines three essential shifts required for the transformation towards a circular plastics economy: Reuse, Recycle, Reorient, and Diversify. These shifts involve reducing the use of problematic and unnecessary plastics, accelerating the market for reusable and recyclable products, and promoting sustainable alternatives to plastic. Market shift three can be particularly impactful. The report states, “The careful replacement of specific problematic plastic products with short-lived products made from alternative materials, such as paper and compostable materials, can deliver a 17 percent decrease in plastic pollution…
Advancing and scaling substitute materials provides an opportunity for innovation and economic development. Importantly, deployment at scale of composting infrastructure for compostable products, as well as the segregate collection, would be crucial in any circumstance where these products replace plastic items. Innovation on new materials that are bio-benign, ephemeral, lower cost and/or are coupled to available waste infrastructure for zero leakage can unlock greater impact from reorient and diversify to near-zero pollution in the coming years.”
By implementing these shifts, countries can significantly reduce plastic pollution and its negative impacts.
The report highlights the economic viability of transitioning to a circular plastics economy. While the investment costs for implementing the systems change are substantial, they are significantly lower than the current trajectory. Delaying the transition by just five years could lead to a substantial increase in plastic pollution. On the other hand, embracing the change could bring numerous economic benefits, including job creation, income growth, improved livelihoods, reduced environmental damage, and cost savings.
Given the cross-border nature of plastic waste, liabilities, and risks, the report stresses the need for harmonized international action. Coordinated measures and obligations between nations and across value chains are essential for achieving a significant shift in the global plastics policy landscape. A globally coherent approach to monitoring, reporting, and regulatory interventions is crucial for informed decision-making and progress tracking.
Cruz Foam is thrilled that 2023 World Oceans Day has been accompanied by such an impactful report. By implementing the proposed shifts towards a circular plastics economy and adopting supportive policies, we can substantially reduce plastic waste, create sustainable jobs, and mitigate environmental and health impacts. We are dedicated to finding impactful solutions that divert the need for plastic with solutions that end in circularity. We strive to solve the world’s biggest problems with existing solutions. Let’s continue to work towards healing the oceans and our planet together.