Plastic pollution leaking into aquatic ecosystems has increased dramatically in recent years and is expected to double by 2030, creating devastating consequences for human health, the global economy, biodiversity and the climate.
Plastic, another climate issue
The report, released 10 days before the Glasgow Climate Conference, highlights that plastic has also become a climate issue. According to a life-cycle analysis, greenhouse gas emissions from plastics were 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015 and are expected to increase to about 6.5 billion tons or 15% of the global carbon budget by 2050.
Plastic pollution in the ocean
The report highlights that plastic accounts for 85% of marine litter and warns that the amount of plastic pollution flowing into the oceans will nearly triple by 2040, and increase by 23-37 million tons per year, which means that there are about 50 kilograms of plastic per meter of coastline globally.
As a result, halobios, ranging from plankton, shellfish and birds to sea turtles and mammals, are at serious risk of poisoning, behavioral disorders, starvation, and suffocation. Corals, mangroves and seagrass beds are also being inundated with plastic waste, depriving them of oxygen and light.
“A major issue is that most plastic decomposers, such as microplastics and chemical additives, are known to be toxic and harmful to the health of humans and wild animals as well as ecosystems”, said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The human body is susceptible to plastic pollution from water sources in several ways, which can lead to hormonal changes, developmental disorders, reproductive abnormalities and cancer. Plastics can be ingested by people through seafood, beverages, and even salt; when suspended in the air, they can be inhaled and penetrate into the skin.
Significant economic impact
Marine litter and plastic pollution also have a significant impact on the global economy. In 2018, the global impact of marine plastic pollution on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as other costs (e.g., cleanup costs), resulted in an estimated economic contribution in lieu of payment of at least $6-19 billion. It is projected that by 2040, businesses could be at financial risk of $100 billion per year if governments require them to pay for waste management costs based on expected volumes and recyclability. Large volumes of plastic wastes also lead to an increase in illegal domestic and international waste disposal.
Stop using destructive alternatives to plastic
The report warns against the use of single-use plastic products and other destructive alternatives to plastic products, such as bio-based or biodegradable plastics, which currently pose a chemical threat similar to that of conventional plastics.
The report examines serious market failures, such as the low price of virgin fossil fuel feedstocks compared to recycled materials, the disconnect between informal and formal plastic waste management efforts, and the lack of consensus on global solutions.
UNEP is calling for an immediate reduction in plastic use and encouraging a transformation of the entire plastic value chain, which will require further investment in building of a stronger and more effective monitoring system to determine the source, scale and fate of plastics and establishing a risk framework, which is not available globally. It’s ultimately necessary to shift to recycling, including sustainable consumption and production practices, accelerated development and adoption of alternatives by businesses, and increased consumer awareness to enable more responsible choices.
Post time: Aug-25-2022