Pressure Grows for Global Treaty on Plastic Waste
By Romero Halloway
As plastic pollution grows to be one of the most consequential environmental hazards of our time, so grows the awareness of the problem as one that transcends national boundaries.
As U.S. President Joe Biden travels to Cornwall, U.K. to attend what some are calling the greenest G7 summit in history, activists and businesses alike are agitating for a global treaty on plastic pollution.
“Together with independent scientific evidence to underpin the direction of travel, the G7 leaders have a key role in helping ensure we move more rapidly towards a more sustainable use of plastics,” said Richard Thompson, a professor that heads the International Marine Litter unit at Plymouth University in the UK in a recent blog post.
More than 11 million tons of plastic pollution are pouring into the world’s oceans every year, and that doesn’t even account for the plastic litter accumulating on land, in landfills and along riverways and lakeshores. A new paper estimates that number will nearly triple by 2040 unless action is taken.
Citizens across the world are taking notice, and many people, particularly the cohort of younger generations are demanding more attention and action to the problem.
A survey conducted by Kantar called “Consumer Response to Plastic Pollution” found that the issue was the second-biggest concern behind only climate change across the globe. And in some regions like Asia and Eastern Europe, plastic waste is the number one source of concern.
Businesses know they must respond to the changing demands of consumers, which is part of the reason 30 major businesses recently signed a manifesto calling for a global treaty on plastic pollution.
But it’s not only the changing nature of demand, businesses are required to adhere to a complex and shifting set of regulations around the production, use, and end-of-life of plastic products.
“Companies here in the US, and around the world need their own governments to help set consistent and effective guidelines that help them curb plastic waste and achieve their sustainability goals,” said Erin Simon, Head of Plastic Waste & Business at World Wildlife Fund.
One company advocating for international plastic recycling standards is Nestle, which sells foods with various forms of packaging in 187 countries across the globe and must adhere to 187 different sets of rules.
Another example of inconsistent regulation is plastic bag bans, which are one of the most prominent tools used by plastic waste reduction advocates to reduce litter in the ocean.
There are 115 plastic bag bans in the world, which advocates celebrate, but the inconsistencies are troubling for companies throughout the plastic value chain. In France, for example, bags less than 50 microns are banned. In Tunisia, the standard is 40 microns.
Yet another mismatch occurs when certain chemicals included in the production of plastic products in one country are not able to be recycled by plants in other countries that may outlaw or limit those chemicals.
A treaty would not only continue to raise awareness but also create standards for plastic production, plastic use and end-of-life.
“While companies have a clear responsibility to address plastic pollution within their own supply chains, wider systemic change is vital,” said Cristianne Close, Head of the Markets Practice of WWF International.
Optimism exists that something could get done as the international coalitions, which spent the last year and a half on Zoom, begin to gather again and attend to problems other than a pandemic.
Also, the Trump administration has been an impediment to international action.
When the UN Environmental Assembly last met in Kenya, the United States objected by attempting to frame the issue as exclusively one solved by better waste management processes.
“Virtually everybody else in the room was focused on the idea that there is a problem with production and the use of single-use plastic,” said Hugo-Maria Schally, the lead negotiator on marine plastics for the European Union.
We here at Littorary are in league with those who want to move beyond single-use plastics and further advocate for eliminating plastics from reusable products where possible.
We believe a global treaty is a positive step toward confronting the problem and should include reducing plastic production, but we also recognize the market has a role to play. It’s why we are singularly focused on bringing a compelling alternative to plastics products to market.
Littorary is committed to making durable and sophisticated products that rival the convenience of plastics without the environmental burden. We believe technology and design innovations can revolutionize how Americans and the world consume products in concert with the health of the environment. Please stay tuned to our website, blog, and upcoming Kickstarter page as we unveil a product fully capable of providing the convenience and sustainability that will consign the concept of disposable plastics to the garbage heap of history.