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Plastic pollution to double by 2030: UNEP

Plastic pollution in oceans and other bodies of water has continued to grow sharply and could more than double by 2030.

• October 22, 2021
Plastic bottles

Plastic pollution in oceans and other bodies of water has continued to grow sharply and could more than double by 2030, according to an assessment released on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report highlights dire consequences for health, the economy, biodiversity, and the climate.

It also says a drastic reduction in unnecessary, avoidable, and problematic plastic is crucial to addressing the global pollution crisis overall.

It proposes an accelerated transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies, the removal of subsidies, and a shift toward more circular approaches to help reduce plastic waste at the needed scale.

Titled ‘From Pollution to Solution: A global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution’, the report shows a growing threat across all ecosystems, from source to sea.

But it also shows the know-how to reverse the mounting crisis, provided the political will is there and urgent action is taken.

The document, released 10 days ahead of the start of the crucial UN Climate Conference (COP26), stresses that plastics are also a climate problem.

Addressing solutions to the problem, the report highlighted the chances of recycling out of the plastic pollution crisis.

They warned against damaging alternatives, such as bio-based or biodegradable plastics, which currently pose a threat similar to conventional plastics.

The report looks at critical market failures, such as the low price of virgin fossil fuel feedstocks (any renewable biological material that can be used directly as a fuel) compared to recycled materials, disjointed efforts in informal and formal plastic waste management, and the lack of consensus on global solutions.

The assessment calls for an immediate reduction in plastic production and consumption and encourages a transformation across the whole value chain.

It also asks for investments in far more robust and effective monitoring systems to identify the sources, scale, and fate of plastic, a shift to circular approaches and more alternatives are necessary.

Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, said: “This assessment provides the strongest scientific argument to date for the urgency to act, and for collective action to protect and restore our oceans, from source to sea.”

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