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Planet drowning in plastic pollution

plastic pollution

Tamaki Makaurau – The near 300 million tonnes of global plastic waste, which is the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population, is front of mind for New Zealanders.

Governments and businesses have been calling for an international and legally binding treaty mandating targets to reduce plastic pollution.

Any treaty must be bold, ambitious, broad and urgently concluded. Countries could agree to global targets ahead of implementing a treaty to address the urgent need for reducing plastic waste.

After banning plastic bags in 2020, New Zealand now proposes to regulate single-use plastic packaging and to ban various hard-to-recycle plastics and single-use plastic items.

About eight million tonnes ends up in the ocean, accompanied by an estimated 24.4 trillion pieces of micro-plastics, the tiny plastic particles that can’t be seen. The number of those particles per cubic metre has been suggested to outnumber zooplankton in the same area, essential for maintaining marine ecosystems and affecting the climate.

The scale of plastic pollution is evidently huge, with the impacts extending to negative economic, social and health effects. That is why calls have been mounting for a legally binding international treaty to ensure a coordinated global response from governments, businesses and civil society to tackle its problems.

Because, as useful as plastics are in the modern world, they have little utility washed up on a beach or when they cost the tourism, shipping, fishing and other industries billions of dollars in losses; not to mention the health impacts and risk of endocrine disruption from marine plastics.

And while the world is trying to come to grips with the covid pandemic and climate change, plastic production is being ramped up despite the emissions risk from plastics, which originate from fossil fuels.

As the oceans move plastics around, plastic waste has become a global phenomenon, needing a global plan of action implemented by people and supply chains worldwide.

Because plastic pollution is a transboundary problem, it cannot be addressed individually. Binding multilateral measures are needed to prevent and reduce plastic pollution in the environment, including microplastics.

The only way is for governments around the world to agree to work together with ambitious objectives, and concrete measures, based on a comprehensive approach and considering the full lifecycle of plastics.