Ambitious global policies can mitigate the potential effects of plastic pollution on people and ecosystems. This is according to a report released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Friday.
The “Global Outlook for Plastics: Policy Scenarios to 2060” shows the amount of plastic waste and environmental damage expected in the next 40 years. The first conclusion is that “business as usual” is not sustainable.
[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können]
The amount of plastic in rivers and oceans could triple
The projections are based on the Global Plastics Outlook published in February on economic drivers, environmental impacts and policy measures. Since then, UN member states have pledged to negotiate a legally binding international agreement by 2024 aimed at reducing environmental pollution from plastic waste.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that without drastic measures, global plastic consumption is expected to nearly triple due to economic and population growth. Forecasts show an increase from 460 million tons in 2019 to more than 1.2 billion tons in 2060. Although the proportion of recycled plastic will nearly double, it is expected to represent only 12 percent in 2060.
The amount of plastic waste will nearly triple by 2060 and about half of it will end up in landfills. Only about one fifth of plastic waste is sent for recycling. About 44 million tons will enter the environment annually and the amount of plastic accumulated in rivers and oceans is expected to more than triple, from 140 million tons in 2019 to nearly 500 million tons in 2060.
The release of microplastics is projected to increase in all regions of the world, and annual greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production, use and disposal will increase to an amount equivalent to a warming effect of about 4.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – roughly equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union in 2019 .
Collection campaigns are expensive, but they are cheaper than the aftermath
While projections to 2060 are filled with uncertainty, the report says, risks to ecosystems and human health will increase without “stricter, more ambitious and coordinated” action. “The global community is still far from achieving its long-term goal of ending plastic pollution.”
To this end, the OECD proposes packages of measures to countries that can reduce demand, encourage reuse and improve disposal. It’s about starting with all phases of the plastic life cycle.
Plastic taxes, especially on more polluting plastics, can create incentives to extend the life of plastic products and strengthen the circular economy. This could make recycled plastic cheaper. However, recycling must be improved to meet the increasing demand. Policies can set targets for recycling rates and increase manufacturers’ responsibility for packaging and products in the electronics, automotive, and apparel sectors. In the optimistic scenario, a recycling rate of 60 percent is achieved and a market share of recycled plastics of over 40 percent.
To tackle plastic pollution in the environment, investment in waste collection and landfilling is required. If plastic waste is managed properly, the amount entering the environment could drop from 22 million tons in 2019 to 6 million tons by 2060. However, plastic waste continues to accumulate in rivers and oceans, requiring clean-up efforts. The cost of removing plastic waste from the sea would, on average, be only one-third of the economic and environmental cost of plastic pollution.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has announced that the findings now published are part of a more comprehensive report due to appear in a few months. The Economic Cooperation Organization is a global forum that works with more than 100 countries.