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The UN Predicts Global Savings of Up to $4.5 Trillion by 2040 if Plastic Pollution is Reduced

A UN report has outlined a plan to decrease plastic pollution by 80% before 2040, utilizing currently available technologies and solutions.

In the next two decades, if global plastic pollution is significantly reduced, countries could achieve trillions of dollars in savings, a net increase in employment, and the establishment of a circular economy for materials which would generate more notable economic gains as opposed to the current wasteful and ecologically-hazardous system.

Today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a new document asserting that the current technological and practical solutions can help create a healthier and more sustainable approach to plastic, materials, and resource utilization.

The report approximates that transitioning towards a more circular economy for plastics could lead to the benefit of $1.27tr in cost savings and recycling revenues by 2040, in addition to $3.25tr that could potentially be saved from averted health, climate, air contamination, marine ecosystem destruction, and legal costs.

Still, it is necessary to act quickly and determinedly within the next five years, as any further postponement would make it more expensive to reduce the amount of plastic pollution, which is predicted to rise to 80 million metric tonnes in 2040 if no action is taken.

A study published by the United Nations Environment Programme proposes a roadmap that, if countries act quickly to implement effective recycling and reuse measures and adjust investments towards a more circular economic model, could reduce plastic pollution globally by 80% by 2040.

The paper claims that countries should endeavor to get rid of all avoidable single-use plastics and then concentrate on establishing the economic advantages of reusing the residual plastics as much as feasible. It gauges that such measures could reduce plastic contamination by nearly one-third by 2040.

The document further suggests that the recycling of materials needs to be upgraded, and the support of fossil fuel subsidies must be withdrawn to encourage businesses to improve the construction of plastic items in order to make them more suitable for recycling. This could possibly result in a 20 percent decrease in plastic waste.

It can be argued that by adapting products and services to substitute plastics with materials like paper or compostable substances, a further 17 percent decrease in plastic pollution can be accomplished.

The report cautions that even if all proposed measures are implemented, by 2040, there will still be about 100 million metric tonnes of plastics from single-use and short-lived products that will need to be managed in order to reach the goal of an 80% decrease on an international level.

The document claims that the deficit in plastic disposal can be addressed by establishing and executing safety protocols for non-recyclable plastic waste and holding producers of dangerous plastic and microplastics accountable for their management.

It is estimated that the implementation of a circular economy would lead to net savings to the global economy of more than $4.5 trillion by 2040, with the creation of 700,000 jobs worldwide, mostly in lower-income countries.

The report predicts that an investment of around £65bn annually would be required to implement its suggested policy agenda. Yet it claims that the resulting alteration of the current disposable plastic system would cost significantly less than the estimated £113bn charged for keeping it unchanged.

Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UNEP, declared that the way the world produces, uses, and disposes of plastics is detrimental to ecosystems, posing risks to people's health, as well as contributing to climate change.

The UNEP report, she noted, sets out a roadmap for substantially reducing the risks posed by plastics by utilizing a circular approach that keeps them from entering ecosystems, our bodies, and being used in the economy. If negotiations on the plastic pollution deal follow this roadmap, she stated, there will be multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits.

As many countries prepare for the next round of discussions in Paris later this month in an effort to establish an international agreement to battle plastic waste, a report has been released.

Late last year, a round of negotiations was convened in Uruguay with the aim of reaching an agreement; however, after more than 2,000 people from 160 nations attended, the talks resulted in a stalemate. No consensus was achieved on the framework of a new international treaty.

In March 2022, a global consensus was reached amongst 175 nations to broker an agreement to fight against the destructive effects of plastic pollution. However, the specifics of how to make such a pact a reality are yet to be determined. It is expected that five rounds of negotiations will take place before the final treaty is signed off next year.

A majority of EU, Latin American, African, and Pacific nations, along with civil society organizations, prefer a "top-down" approach that would attempt to impose overall limits on plastic pollution. However, a handful of powerful nations such as America, China, and various petrostates are in favor of a treaty similar to the Paris Agreement, one which would demand countries to come up with their own individual plastic pollution plans.

An area of disagreement focuses on whether agreements in the ultimate treaty - potentially including restrictions on pollution, design regulations, and targets for waste management - should be legally binding or not. Additionally, discussions are still in progress to decide how to finance initiatives to address plastic pollution, with poorer countries contending that they require financial assistance to construct the requisite recycling and waste management systems.

Yesterday, the WWF called on governments to take advantage of the chance to prohibit and phase out the "most hazardous and unwarranted" single-use plastics, such as eating utensils, e-cigarettes, and microplastics in beauty products, and other products, as the highest priority in addressing the growing heap of plastic waste around the world.

The conservation organization suggested that specific regulations be clearly included in the agreement on international plastic standards that nations will be debating at the negotiations in Paris this month.

Marco Lambertini, the WWF's special envoy, declared that the world is still tied to a structure that manufactures plastic in quantities that are too large for any nation to properly address, thus triggering unfavorable effects for society, the environment, and the economy.

He warned that if no action is taken, by 2040, the production of plastic will have doubled, the amount of plastic entering our oceans will have tripled, and the amount of plastic waste in our oceans will have quadrupled. This is something we must prevent from occurring.

Different countries have already implemented initiatives like prohibiting plastic items like bags, straws, and stirrers, as well as microbeads contained in cosmetics and single-use food and beverage items. However, it is evident that this is not enough. What is needed is a coordinated strategy that has been agreed on a global level and is able to bring about substantial change while simultaneously providing all countries and businesses with a fair chance of success.


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