UN Environment report finds “a surging momentum in global efforts to address plastic pollution”

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05 Jun 2018 --- A new report by the EU Environment into the state of global plastic pollution in 2018 has been released on World Environment Day. The report offers the first comprehensive international assessment of government action against plastic pollution. The analysis illustrates best practices and lessons learned from case studies on single-use bans, levies and other forms of government intervention. UN experts advise policymakers with a ten-step roadmap for combatting plastic pollution.

In what is framed as the first comprehensive review of the “state of plastics,” the UN Environment has assembled experiences and assessments of the various measures and regulations to beat plastic pollution in a report: “Single-use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability.” The report found that governments are typically increasing the pace of implementation and the scope of action to curb the use of single-use plastics.

Among the revelations were that China is pushing for biodegradable bags, the Galapagos will ban single-use plastics and Sri Lanka will ban Styrofoam. A full list of national initiatives can be viewed in the report.

The global outlook of the report, developed in cooperation with the Indian Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, presents case studies from more than 60 countries. The report analyzes the complex relationships in the plastics economy and offers an approach to rethink how the world produces, uses and manages single-use plastics.

Among the recommendations are specific actions that policymakers can take to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics. The report was launched in New Delhi today by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim on the occasion of World Environment Day.

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UN's 10-step roadmap for combatting plastic pollution

“Plastic is a miracle material,” says Solheim. “Thanks to plastics, countless lives have been saved in the health sector, the growth of clean energy from wind turbines and solar panels has been greatly facilitated, and safe food storage has been revolutionized.”

“But what makes plastic so convenient in our day-to-day lives – it’s cheap – also makes it ubiquitous, resulting in one of our planet’s greatest environmental challenges. Our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup. In cities around the world, plastic waste clogs drains, causing food and breeding diseases. Consumed by livestock, it also finds its way into the food chain,” he adds.

“The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable – with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” notes Erik Solheim Head of UN Environment, in the report’s foreword. “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it,” Solheim concludes.

Among the key findings, the report states that government levies and bans – where properly planned and enforced – have been among the most effective strategies to limit overuse of disposable plastic products. However, the report goes on to cite the fundamental need for broader cooperation from business and private sector stakeholders, offering a roadmap for upstream solutions, including extended producer responsibility and incentives for adoption of a more circular economy approach to plastic production and consumption.

The report recognizes that single-use plastic waste generation and waste management practices differ across regions. While no single measure against pollution will be equally effective everywhere, the authors outline 10 universal steps for policymakers to tackle the issue in their communities.

Under the theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution,” World Environment Day 2018 is issuing a call to action to individuals, governments, the public and the private sector to examine joint solutions to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our own health.

Coca-Cola announces progress in combatting plastic pollution
To mark World Environment Day today, The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa and Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages, reaffirmed their commitment to help create a world without waste.

In January 2018, The Coca-Cola Company launched a global goal to fundamentally reshape its approach to packaging through its “World Without Waste” initiative. This initiative aims to collect and recycle the equivalent of 100 percent of its packaging by 2030.

In 2004, Coca-Cola in South Africa co-funded and co-created the PET Recycling Company (PETCO), an industry body that works with government on behalf of the industry to increase the value of recyclable PET and achieve sustainable growth in the region’s plastic collection system.

As a result of PETCO’s efforts, more than two billion PET bottles were collected and recycled in South Africa in 2017 – equating to 5.9 million bottles recycled a day. This injected R966 million (USD$77 million) into the South African economy through the manufacture of recycled end-use products and helped generate income opportunities for 64,000 South Africans. The country has seen an increase in recycling rates from single digits in 2000 to 65 percent in 2017 – rates close to those of Europe and which exceed United States levels by more than 20 percent.Click to Enlarge

Across the continent, The Coca-Cola Company’s packaging focus on “design, collect and partner is making strides.” In Uganda, the company’s bottling partner has invested significantly in a subsidiary called Plastics Recycling Initiative (PRI), which is now the largest plastic recycling business in Uganda. They collect about 14 tons of plastic daily and empower plastic collectors to earn a living, 80 percent of whom were previously unemployed women. In Kenya, the company has partnered with like-minded industries to launch their version of an industry PET Recycling Company today, to promote and regulate the recycling of PET material after their initial use.

“We will be taking these examples from across the continent and learning from them to innovate and invest in a waste-free South Africa,” says Maserame Mouyeme, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Director for Coca-Cola Southern & East Africa. “Bottles and cans shouldn’t harm our planet, and companies like ours must be leaders. Consumers in South Africa and around the world care about our planet, and they want and expect companies to take action. That’s exactly what we’re going to do, and we invite others to join us on this critical journey.”

Coca-Cola is one of a growing list of global corporations which has committed to short-midterm plastic waste sustainability goals. Recently, the EU announced a Directive to counter increasing levels of marine plastic pollution by targeting 10 popular single-use products.

Edited by Joshua Poole

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