Environmental News from the US: A team of scientists working in the field of plastics has published a letter in Science, calling for the cessation of new plastic production in order to solve the plastic pollution issue.
Plastic is not only an issue when it comes to its disposal, but its production generates large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the climate crisis, they argue.
Earlier this year, countries agreed to adopt a global treaty to stop plastic pollution, but the details for this agreement have yet to be determined. Negotiators will begin working on a draft of the agreement next month.
“[T]he resolution is in place, but it will be years before the treaty is adopted … and implemented with appropriate accountability,” letter co-author Bethanie Carney Almroth, an ecotoxicologist and microplastics researcher from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, told Mongabay in an email. “The problems with plastics are complex and will require multifaceted solutions that are product and context-specific to ensure safety and equity.”
The letter notes that there are currently about 450 million tons of plastic produced each year and that production is set to double by 2045. The production of plastic is known to emit large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions — in the U.S. alone; it’s been estimated that the plastic industry contributes 232 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year and that these emissions could outpace what is produced by burning coal by 2030. But there is also the growing issue of plastic waste, especially since most of it is currently exported from the Global North to the Global South, the scientists say in the letter.
A recent study in Science has suggested that plastic pollution can only be cut by about 80% over the next 20 years if all possible solutions to the issue are fully implemented, including replacing plastic with other materials and improving recycling and waste management. But even with this action, about 710 million metric tons of plastic waste will have entered both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the study suggests.
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