Catherine Benson Wahlén: Thematic Expert for Human Development
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report that argues that actors across the plastics value chain should be held accountable for the “true cost of plastics to nature and people.” WWF released the report in advance of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4).
The report titled, ‘Solving Plastic Pollution through Accountability,’ states that one-third of plastic waste enters nature as land, freshwater or marine pollution, and cautions that there is a risk of an additional 104 million metric tons of plastic leaking into the world’s ecosystems by 2030 without a “drastic change in approach.” The report warns that plastic leakage is already affecting ecosystems and wildlife. Over 240 species have ingested plastics and more than 270 species have been harmed by plastic entanglement.
Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the report states, the amount of plastic pollution on the planet will double by 2030, with oceans the most affected. In addition, overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the plastic life cycle will increase by 50 percent, and CO2 emissions from plastic incineration are expected to triple by 2030, as a result of poor waste management choices.
The report finds that the current global approach to addressing the plastic crisis “is failing.” Upstream stakeholders are not held accountable for their products after they are sold, resulting in a market price for virgin plastic that does not represent the full costs of plastic to nature and society. The report concludes that too much responsibility for solving the plastic challenge is placed on consumers and waste management, and calls for action across the entire value chain. The report urges a systems-based approach to address plastic production, consumption, waste management and recycling as a single system, arguing that such an approach could reduce plastic waste generation by 57 percent and reduce virgin plastic production by nearly 50 percent. WWF calls for a number of measures to transform the plastic value chain, including eliminating single use plastic, achieving 100 percent collection rates and upgrading national waste management plans.
WWF is advocating for governments participating in UNEA-4 to begin negotiations towards a legally binding international treaty on marine plastics pollution, including as a contribution to SDG 14 (life below water). WWF recommends that such a treaty establish national targets for plastic reduction, recycling and management and transparent reporting mechanisms that recognize the transboundary nature of the plastic problem. WWF stresses that such targets and mechanisms must extend to companies. The report features calls to action for governments, industries and companies, civil society and the public