Resolution adopted to end plastic pollution
Reporting on a significant global strategy to counteract the growing problem of plastic pollution affecting our planet’s environment.
Image © olegbreslavtsev | iStockphoto.com
The Paris Agreement adopted by 196 countries at COP 21 that entered into force in November 2016 is seen as a landmark effort to tackle climate change and limit global warming to well below 2°C. Another significant challenge the world is facing is the harm plastic pollution causes to natural habitats and to the organisms living in those habitats. In what could be seen as another landmark moment in years to come (as reported in the February 2022 issue of SATRA Bulletin), 175 nations meeting at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in Nairobi, Kenya, endorsed a resolution entitled ‘End plastic pollution: towards an internationally legally binding instrument’ to stop such pollution (including that caused by microplastics) and to have an agreement in place by 2024.
What are microplastics?
‘Microplastics’ are pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in length. Sources of microplastics include pellets used in manufacturing, plastic fibres from synthetic textiles and larger plastics being broken down over time – for example, from exposure to wind or waves. Microplastics have been found in locations as remote as Antarctica and the peak of Mount Everest.
The agreement would set out rules for the production, use and disposal of plastics and could include measures such as limits on the production of virgin plastic and requirements to recycle. Global plastic production increased from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, and this is expected to increase to 400 million tonnes by 2040. It is also estimated that only 9 per cent of plastic waste is recycled, with most ending up in landfill.
It is clear that the use of plastics will come under increasing scrutiny in the coming years (with single-use plastic already being banned or heavily taxed in many countries). While it may still have a role to play for certain applications within the footwear industry, it is likely that companies will need to reduce what in some cases has become an over-reliance on plastic materials and components. This is something that the industry has already started to transition towards, with many innovative natural and bio-based materials having been launched in recent years, which will surely now become more commonplace.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report in February 2022. This was based on 34,000 scientific papers reviewed by 270 scientists from 67 countries outlining the consequences of climate change.
Its findings are stark. One of the stand-out statistics is that more than three billion people – almost half of the world’s population – is vulnerable to climate change, with a very narrow window of opportunity to minimise the consequences of this problem.
While these challenges are clearly bigger than any single company or industry can resolve in isolation, it yet again highlights how urgent the crisis is and the need for everyone to do what they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to restrict global warming.
How can we help?
Members seeking guidance on sustainability issues can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published on page 31 of the April 2022 issue of SATRA Bulletin.