Global treaty to tackle plastic problem ‘is long overdue’
An agreement to start negotiations on a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution is very welcome, but long overdue.
Midland green energy expert Ron Fox was commenting after 175 countries voted unanimously at the UN environment assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop a legally binding pact by the end of 2024.
“When you think there are now around five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, it is about time we started sorting out this problem which is destroying habitats, harming wildlife and contaminating the food chain,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd.
“This pollution will take hundreds of years to break down, so we must act now for the sake of our planet and future generations.”
A committee will start work this year and they will address all forms of plastic pollution, including microplastic particles which have been found all over the world including near the top of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans and in Arctic snow and Antarctic ice.
Their measures could include limits on producing new plastic, the phasing out of single products and requirements to recycle, plus calling for financial help for those countries in the global south dealing with plastic problems created in the global north.
The UK was among more than 70 countries which helped to develop the resolution by supporting an initial proposal from Rwanda and Peru that addresses the full lifecycle of plastics, including its production, use and disposal.
Ron said that plastic production globally had soared from two million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017 and is on course to exceed 600 million tonnes by 2040. Of the plastic produced 40 per cent of that is single-use plastic only used once before it’s thrown away
Of the 348 million tonnes only 9 per cent is recycled, 19 per cent is incinerated, 50 per cent is sent to landfill and the remaining 22 per cent is dumped in unregulated sites, burnt in pits or leaks into the environment.
However, not all plastic can be recycled, either because of the way it’s made or because it’s too expensive or difficult to do so.
Ron said: “This problem is too big for one country alone, the problem now spans international borders and boundaries and needs a global solution.
“If climate change has the Paris Agreement, why shouldn’t there be a world plastic agreement,” said Ron, on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire.
“A UN committee could be the answer, and if it is successful and puts in place a framework to end plastic pollution it could be the biggest environmental success since the 1989 Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone-depleting substances.”
He concluded: “I just hope that all signatories are ready to deliver on the promise of this ground-breaking agreement to end plastic pollution and find the finance to pay for it.”
Caption: Long overdue – An agreement to start negotiations on a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution is very welcome, says Midlands green expert Ron Fox.