Before we dive into what is single-use plastic and why we are all worried about the plastic problem, here are some hard facts to digest:
- Since the 1950s, eight billion tons of plastic has been produced
- Each year 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used
- Only 9% of all plastic waste has been recycled
The Undisposable Truth About Disposable Plastic
Single-use plastics, also known as disposable plastics, comprise polythene bags, plastic sachets, straws, food wrappers, etc. By nature, plastics are non-biodegradable. While they do not decompose into the soil, they do break down into tiny particles over a period of time. In the process not only do plastics release toxic chemicals, but they also enter our water bodies and food system causing a negative impact on health and environment.
Breaking Free from Single-use Plastic: Davos 2020
The WEF summit this year witnessed the coming together of major advocates of climate change and sustainable development to share their views on single-use plastics.
Following are few of ways in which the cycle of single-use plastic can be broken:
A. Involving Local Government and Local Businesses
For any policy to be sustainable and have a direct impact on the population as well as the environment, it is critical to adopt reforms at the grass-root level. Akira Sakano, Co-founder of Zero Waste Japan, emphasizes the involvement of the local business bodies in doing away with single-use plastic bags. She is a stronger preacher of the role of the local government bodies in designing solutions for single-use plastic.
B. Circular Economy – Why Was it Invented?
Convenience to access and use has been hugely preferred by consumers over the past few years. But the fact is everything convenient cannot be sustainable as well. This explains why the present linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption has contributed significantly to the percentage of plastic waste globally. Most consumer goods companies follow this model of production. According to Tak Niinami (CEO, Suntory Holdings Ltd.), the move towards a circular economy is the best possible step towards rethinking how to deal with one-time-use plastic.
In a circular economy, materials flow around a closed-loop system, instead of being used once and then be discarded. The restorative and regenerative nature of the circular economy enables improved risk management of raw materials and an enhanced approach to the supply chain. At present, plastic waste accounts for close to USD 80-120 billion loss to the global economy. Switching from the linear model of production and consumption to a circular one is critical to meeting SDG 12 as well as SDG 14.
C. Building Efficient Plastic Recycling Infrastructure
At present 91% of plastic is not being recycled. If the present trends continue, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by 2025. This highlights the dire need for an efficient plastic recycling infrastructure.
The WEF summit called for investments for building infrastructure which will recycle plastic in a sustainable manner.
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