Plastic pollution could double by 2040 without global policy

Plastic pollution could double and increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040 if no action is taken, finds new report.

The report by Systemiq found that global policy could reduce annual mismanaged plastics by 90% and virgin plastic production by 30% by 2040 relative to 2019 levels.

Systemiq propose a package of 15 global policy interventions across the plastic lifecycle, advocating for a comprehensive approach beyond mere waste management solutions.

The consultant group say that effective implementation of these policies can only be triggered by common global rules from the international, legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.

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The company’s partner and plastic lead Yoni Shiran said the report sets a “new benchmark” and shows the 15 interventions could “take us a long way in the journey towards ending plastic pollution by 2040.”

“The suggested policy package presents a starting point,” he added.

“However, further and stronger measures are required to eliminate mismanaged plastics fully, address risks to health and biodiversity, ensure a just transition and tackle the climate crisis,” Shiran concluded.

The report underscores the importance of a toxics-free circular economy, highlighting health risks from plastics particularly for vulnerable groups exposed to toxic chemicals throughout the plastic lifecycle.

Additionally, it calls for urgent research and innovation to mitigate microplastic emissions, scale reuse models, advance sorting and recycling, and introduce safe alternative materials, as well as the development of scientific research and data to support policy making.

What are global policy makers doing?

The UN is currently finalising a Global Plastic Treaty which is set to be revealed in November.

A draft stated countries should for the “prevention, progressive reduction and elimination of plastic pollution throughout the life cycle of plastic by 2040” through a “comprehensive” approach that addresses all parts of the lifecycle.

Individual nations of the UNEP will be required to “manage and reduce” the global production of plastic by developing “nationally determined targets” and taking “necessary measures to achieve them.”

Circular economyMaterials and packagingNewsPolicy

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