World Environment Day: Global Measures to Combat Plastic Pollution

The world produced a staggering 367 million metric tons of plastic in 2020, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population. Alarmingly, only 9% of the total plastic produced is recycled.

Srajan Girdonia
New Update

Plastic pollution has long been a scourge on the world's oceans, marine life, and beaches, with a garbage patch the size of France haunting our ecosystems. However, global efforts are intensifying to tackle this crisis head-on and mitigate the adverse effects of plastic production and waste on our environment. From international initiatives to local bans, nations worldwide are taking decisive action to combat plastic pollution.

The world produced a staggering 367 million metric tons of plastic in 2020, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population. Alarmingly, only 9% of the total plastic produced is recycled, while the rest accumulates in landfills or the natural environment, leading to the gradual formation of microplastics that further pollute our food chain, freshwater systems, and air.

Global Measures to Reduce Plastic Pollution

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, numerous global initiatives have been launched to reduce plastic pollution:

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is targeting the tourism industry, notorious for contributing to plastic waste during peak travel seasons. By fostering collaboration among businesses, governments, and stakeholders, this initiative aims to implement concrete agreements and terms by 2025, with the goal of reducing plastic pollution.

UNEA Global Plastic Treaty

In another significant step, the UN Environmental Assembly established the UNEA Global Plastic Treaty. Utilizing science-based policy, this groundbreaking agreement aims to address all aspects of plastic pollution. With an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in place, the UNEA aims to finalize the treaty by 2024, emphasizing different approaches and establishing a legal framework to combat plastic pollution.

Ban on Plastic Bags and Single-Use Plastics

Several countries have also implemented bans on plastic bags and single-use plastics, acknowledging the urgent need for change. Bangladesh took the lead in 2002, becoming one of the first countries to ban plastic bags, inspiring 77 other nations to follow suit. Additionally, 32 countries have imposed taxes or restrictions on plastic bag production and sale. 

India, the world's second most populous country, recently passed a comprehensive ban on single-use plastic products, including straws, cutlery, and earbuds, to combat its severe plastic pollution problem. However, the enforcement of this initiative leaves a lot to be desired, as single-use plastic is still being used indiscriminately in many parts of the country.

The World's First Circular Plastics Economy: EU's Efforts

The European Union is leading the charge towards a circular plastics economy, aiming to ban single-use plastics, establish comprehensive reuse systems, and create a market for recycled plastics. By targeting disposable items commonly found on beaches, such as cigarette butts, wrappers, and food containers, the EU aims to combat marine litter and reduce plastic consumption.

Import-Export of Garbage: Rethinking Waste Management Practices

Addressing the issue of waste exportation, countries are reevaluating their practices. China, once the largest plastic importer, banned imported plastic waste in 2017, leading 180 nations to adopt new rules limiting the trade of plastic waste in 2020. However, the United States continues to export vast quantities of plastic waste, burdening developing countries with the responsibility of managing it. It is crucial for the US to reduce plastic production and consumption to halt this unsustainable practice.

As the world grapples with the plastic pollution crisis, it is evident that collective action is needed to preserve our environment. International agreements, local bans, and a shift towards sustainable practices are critical steps in curbing plastic pollution. Urgent measures must be taken to reduce plastic production, increase recycling rates, and foster responsible consumption, ensuring a cleaner, healthier future for our planet.