World can slash plastic pollution by 80% by 2040, UN claims

31st May 2023


Plastic pollution can be slashed by 80% globally by 2040 if countries and companies make deep policy and market shifts using existing technologies, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Reusing, recycling, and reorienting and diversifying products are the three main areas of focus needed to create a circular economy, the report says. For example, it states that promoting reuse options, including refillable bottles, bulk dispensers, deposit-return schemes and packaging take-back schemes, can reduce 30% of plastic pollution by 2040.

Cutting plastic pollution by an additional 20% can be achieved if recycling becomes a more stable and profitable venture, while careful replacement of products such as plastic wrappers, sachets and takeaway items with products made from alternative materials can deliver an extra 17% decrease.

However, even with these measures, 100 million metric tonnes of plastics from single-use and short-lived products will still need to be safely dealt with annually by 2040 – together with a significant legacy of existing plastic pollution.

The report states that this can be addressed by setting and implementing design and safety standards for disposing of non-recyclable plastic waste, and by making manufacturers responsible for products shedding microplastics, among other measures.

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said: “This UNEP report lays out a roadmap to dramatically reduce these risks through adopting a circular approach that keeps plastics out of ecosystems, out of our bodies and in the economy.”

Read the full report here: bit.ly/3W53G5l

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