In an era of climate change, the global waste crisis is a major area of concern. Finding ways to reduce or even avoid waste is a focal point of interest for countries and organizations globally. Statistics highlight that the world’s oceans are a dumping ground for an astounding 8 million tonnes of plastic. The drains, wind, and illegal dumping are mediums through which the world’s oceans are being filled with waste and are getting increasingly polluted. It is also surprising to learn that rivers, a major fresh water resource, are major contributors towards ocean waste. Image Source: Statista
The ocean is critical to our survival as it offers oxygen, food, and is also responsible for climate change. Beaches around the world are a testimony to the pertinent plastic waste problem that the oceans are facing. However, not all is lost, as the plastic problem can be solved. Based on insights, let’s take a look at some of the steps that we can take.
Reduce plastic dependency where possible
Plastics are used everywhere. They are versatile and hard to do away with. However, many countries are finding ways to reduce plastic waste: A ban has been imposed on plastic bags and other disposable forms of plastic. They have set concrete goals to bring down plastic consumption and waste. Global plastic waste can only come down if this effort is scaled up. Governments, industries, and individuals have a role to play in reducing plastic waste.
Increased producer responsibility
The world plastic production has doubled over the past half-century as the population has increased and our consumption patterns have changed. Production of plastic is set to increase by a third over the next half decade and this is cause for alarm. To put things into context, average capita plastic consumption was 2 kg, in 1974 vs 43 kg, today. Undoubtedly, the high consumption of plastic is bound to have a long-term impact. Developing bio-degradable plastics on tenable alternatives has become an area of focus. The government must play a critical role in monitoring industries that generate plastic waste. A policy framework to handle, collect, and reuse plastic waste is the need of the hour.
Strong tax curbs
Oil is a major component used to produce plastics today. These plastics are a source of both pollution and climate emissions. For instance, renewable plastics only constitute 0.5 percent of the plastics produced in Norway. The reason for this is that plastics made using fossil fuel sources like oil are significantly cheaper than their renewable counterparts. Governments ought to examine avenues where a tax can be imposed on makers of polluting plastics. Changing the fee structure can also help recycled plastics become cheaper than their fossil fuel counterparts.
Implementing a strict timeline
Recently, the EU adopted the European Commissions Circular Economy Action Plan. The purpose of this plan is to achieve a toxic-free, sustainable, and fully circular economy by 2050. A circular economy is an approach to economic development that focusses on recycling, reuse and waste reduction. The EU’s plan has set strict timelines to achieve its goals by 2050. It can act as a great model to follow for waste reduction worldwide.
The road ahead
Today, there is a heightened awareness about climate change and sustainability in the wake of the pandemic. Reducing or eliminating plastic waste in oceans can have a huge impact on climate change and our natural ecosystem. Building awareness and a greater collaboration between industries, governments, and other key stakeholders will help us achieve our sustainability goals quickly. We already find that many countries have taken initiatives to fight climate change. However, there is a need for constant vigilance, accountability, and a stronger framework to mitigate the impact of poor waste management practices and other factors that contribute towards climate change. The EU emphasis on a circular economic is a pragmatic move that may pay off in the long-run.