Since the year 2000, we’ve used more plastic than in all the years before. On average, we each use 53 kilograms of plastic a year and generate a collective total of more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste. Plastic pollution is set to double by 2030, threatening wildlife and human health.
Environmental charity WWF International has warned plastic waste in the oceans could reach 300 million tons in just over a decade. This means that the amount of plastic in the ocean would basically double the one that took more than 100 years to build up between 1950 and 2016.
Almost a third of all plastics produced, or 104 million tons annually, will find their way into the oceans and natural world.
It comes as plastic products are cheaper than ever to make, while almost half of them are thrown away within three years.
The WWF has hit out at just 20% of plastic being collected for recycling worldwide, while more than half is burned or sent to landfill.
Plastic waste is becoming even more damaging to the environment
The charity is calling for an international treaty on plastics pollution, ahead of a meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly next week.
Currently 39% of plastic ends up in landfill and 15% is incinerated, because burning plastic is cheaper than recycling it. About 40% of plastics we consume today are single-use — things like cutlery, plates, food containers, electronics packaging.
Single-use plastics simply have to go, according to Richard Leck, WWF’s Head of Oceans and Sustainable Development.
He continues by saying that calls to actions need to be made immediately and that incentives for producers to use products that aren’t single use could have a positive impact.
Producers must be responsible for cleaning up waste
Single-use plastics have become so ubiquitous it’s hard to imagine doing things any other way. The way forward would mean to transition to a circular economy, where everything is made to be reused, according to Candice Quartermain, founder and CEO of Circular Economy Australia.
“The fact that we’re seeing stats coming out now saying there’s going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2025 is insane,” she said.
It would all boil down to saying that we can’t go on living in this irresponsible way and that something needs to change. That’s what circular economy is about.
Unfortunately, plastic is cheap, versatile and long lasting. But in order to achieve the circular economy status, single-use plastic needs to be more expensive to produce. For that to happen, producers need to be accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products.
For instance, a soft-drink bottle floating in the ocean must be the property of the company that made the bottle, and they must have factored in the cost of retrieving the bottle into their business model.
This plastic waste situation is an issue that comes to be tackled just like any other of this sort, by figuring out which polluters should be paying for it.The price the environment has to pay should be discouraging for the ones that produce this waste.
While plastic is cheap for manufacturers to produce, the UN Environment Program estimates ocean plastic pollution costs around $US 8 billion each year through impacts on things like fisheries, tourism and maritime operators.
Although substantial increases in recycling and efforts to curb single-use plastics take place, especially led by Europe, Japan and Korea, these efforts will be far outweighed by the sharp increase in developing economies of plastic consumption (as well as its disposal),” the agency wrote in its report on the petrochemical industry.
The WWF says more than 270 animal species have been entangled in plastic debris, which is how at least 1,000 marine turtles die each year.
More than 240 animal species have been found to swallow plastic, which can kill everything from sea birds to whales by blocking their guts so that they die of starvation.
Each year humans and other animal species are ingesting more and more nano-plastic from food and drinking water, with the full effects still unknown. It’s clear that quick measures need to be taken.