Research conducted by several Universities, and backed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, suggests volume of plastic in the oceans will quadruple by 2040.
‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’, research was carried out by a consortium of experts from the University of Oxford, the University of Leeds and the Pew Charitable Trusts, finding that the world’s plastic pollution problem is vastly outpacing efforts to stop it.
The researchers tracked the production, use and disposal of plastic around the world to create a model to forecast future plastic pollution. Despite ongoing pledges by corporations and governments to stem plastic pollution, the report suggests that the current measures in place will be unable to negate the volumes of plastic entering the ocean and waterways, that will then triple over the next 20 years continuing in this ‘business as usual’ format.
By adjusting the model, the research was able to identify the measures needed to make a substantial impact in reducing the amount of plastic being produced from entering our natural environments.
Steps that researchers called for included:
- reducing growth in plastic production and consumption
- substituting plastic with paper and compostable materials
- designing products and packaging for recycling
- expanding waste collection rates in middle/low-income countries and supporting the “informal collection” sector
- building facilities to dispose of the 23% of plastic that cannot be recycled economically, as a transitional measure
- reduce plastic waste exports
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Costas Velis, from the University of Leeds, acknowledged the lack of a “silver bullet” for the plastic problem, however an issue often overlooked is the lack of waste management for an estimated 2 billion people in the Global South. “They have to just get rid of all their rubbish, so they have no choice but to burn or dump it,” said Dr Velis.
David Honcoop, managing director at Clarity Environmental, said of the report, “The ongoing volume of plastic waste entering our oceans is of great concern. We are passionate about keeping our natural spaces clear of waste, particularly after seeing the volumes of waste discarded irresponsibly when litter picking last year, in collaboration with The Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
“Reports such as this allow us to critically look at the actions we can take, both personally and as a business. We continue to support our members in looking at their packaging production and assess the environmental impacts of packaging choices. And we believe that communication around waste is also essential to ensure consumers understand what may happen with the packaging they consume.
“With a stark rise in the use of disposable plastic face masks and gloves, this is of particular importance right now to ensure that the disposal of such items is done correctly and responsibly so as to limit the impact on our environment.”
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