Plastic pollution is a global crisis that is now having a devastating impact on our planet. The 2023 UN roadmap for reducing plastic waste is a measurable and achievable plan to greatly reduce the effects of the problem.
2023 UN Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste
Every year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans, waterways, and landfills. This waste can take thousands of years to decompose, harming wildlife, polluting our air and water, and contributing to climate change.
In a new report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has outlined a roadmap for reducing plastic pollution by 80% by 2040. The report identifies a number of key actions that need to be taken, including:
- Banning or taxing single-use plastics
- Promoting reusable alternatives
- Improving recycling infrastructure and rates
Overview of the 2023 UN Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste
The UN Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste provides the first truly comprehensive overview of the plastic pollution crisis. It begins by discussing the sources and effects of plastic waste. Plastic pollution can come from a variety of sources, including:
- Production of plastic products
- Use of plastic products
- Disposal of plastic waste
Plastic waste can have a number of negative effects on the environment, including:
- Harm to wildlife – directly through ingestion and entanglement or indirectly through habitat degradation.
- Polluting our air and water – as plastic degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that find their way into all parts of the biosphere, including the atmosphere, fresh water and the food chain.
- Contributing to climate change – waste plastics release potent greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as they degrade and are a largely underreported contributor to global warming.
The report then summarizes the key findings and recommendations of the UNEP report. The key findings of the report include:
- Plastic pollution is a major environmental problem with many negative impacts.
- Current efforts to reduce plastic pollution are not nearly enough.
- Significant changes must be made to reduce plastic pollution by 80% by 2040.
Also read: Quit Plastic with the Plastic Free Database.
The UN Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste identifies a number of specific actions that can help reduce plastic waste. These actions include:
- Banning or taxing single-use plastics: Single-use plastics are a major source of plastic pollution. Banning or taxing these products can help to reduce their use.
- Promoting reusable alternatives: Reusable products can help reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.
- Improving recycling infrastructure and rates: Recycling is an important part of the solution to plastic pollution. However, recycling rates must be improved to make a real difference (see below).
The Limitations of Recycling
Recycling is often seen as a solution to plastic pollution. However, recycling alone is not enough to solve the problem. According to the World Economic Forum, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. The remaining 91% has ended up in landfills, incinerators, or the natural environment.
It is difficult to imagine, but almost every plastic item ever made in our history still exists as waste plastic somewhere in our biosphere.
The Urgency of Action
You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that the plastic pollution crisis is a serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently. The UN Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste highlights the need for action from individuals, businesses, and governments. Individuals can make a difference by reducing their use of single-use plastics, choosing reusable products, and, lastly, recycling. Businesses can make a difference by reducing their use of plastic packaging and investing in recycling infrastructure. Governments can make a difference by enacting policies that reduce plastic pollution.
Ultimately, we must all work together to address this ticking time bomb that is waste plastic. We, the people and the consumers of plastic, must hold our governments accountable to ensure the correct mechanisms are in place to reduce this needless damage to our planet.