Scientists call for binding global treaty to target production of new plastics

Edited By: Moohita Kaur Garg WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Jul 02, 2021, 11:31 PM(IST)

In this file photo, a volunteer can be seen picking up plastic trash Photograph:( AFP )

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Nils Simon, one of the report authors calls plastic "ubiquitous" and says that it is prevalent everywhere, from terrestrial environments to inside the human body

Scientists have called for a binding global treaty to phase out the production of new plastics by 2040.

According to a report published in the journal 'Science', researchers say that a world agreement on plastic pollution limits and controls could be the answer to reducing plastic pollution in the oceans and on land.

The material, which was discovered in 1907, has now become a threat to the environment. Globally, an estimated eight billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.

Also read | Plastic pollution is booming from coronavirus and will get worse after the pandemic

Nils Simon, one of the report authors calls plastic "ubiquitous" and says that it is prevalent everywhere, from terrestrial environments to inside the human body. 

The same properties which make plastic so necessary in the modern world are also the things that endanger the environment.

Jesse Smith, senior editor at Science says that as for most of the new technology, plastic was developed without much thought to its possible effects, but now as the world is faced with the rapidly growing plastic problem "it's impossible to deny their dark side". 

As per the report, a new global treaty should be drafted to address plastics on both sides of the supply chain, from materials extraction to the legacy pollution left from their use.

Almost half (47 per cent) of plastic waste comes from packaging materials, while 14 per cent is from textiles and 6 per cent comes from transport.

Also read | Plastic pollution flowing into oceans to triple by 2040: Study

In the year 2010 alone, about 8 million tonnes of plastic ended up in the oceans, representing 3 per cent of the world's plastic waste. Yet, the production of the pollutant has continued to increase.

The year 2019 saw around 368 million tonnes of newly made plastics. 

A global carbon budget of 10-13 per cent could be consumed by 2050 for the production of new plastics made from fossil fuels in order to meet the Paris climate agreement's requirement not to exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

The proposed binding global treaty calls for phasing out of virgin plastics by 2040. Other proposals include the creation of a circular economy, in which reuse and refill are incentivised, resulting in the elimination of significant amounts of plastic pollution. A global clean up of plastic waste is also advised.  

Simon, one of the authors says that while still not completely understood, plastic pollution poses a significant threat to the environment, species and habitats, as well as cultural heritage. 

He adds that plastics social impact is also doing considerable harm to human health, particularly affecting vulnerable communities and that it imposes substantial economic costs on regions that are tourist-dependent.

Also read | Coke, Pepsi, Nestle top makers of plastic waste: Greenpeace

A report by non-profit Tearfund revealed last year that Coca-cola, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever were by themselves responsible for over half a million tonnes of plastic pollution, or enough to cover 83 football fields every day. 

Report authors Sarah Kakadellis and Gloria Rosetto also contend that plastic waste is poorly managed, and around 12,000 million tonnes of it is likely to accumulate in landfills and the environment by 2050, especially as a result of failing to address it.


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