Plastic pollution is a global environmental, human health and climate crisis. Globally, plastic pollution has doubled in the past two decades, creating islands of plastic in our oceans and entering the food we eat and water we drink. Plastic production is toxic to communities and wildlife. And on top of these ills, plastic is sourced from fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are emitted throughout the life cycle of plastic.
Yet despite the widespread harms of plastic, global plastic production is still growing. Over the past 70 years, production of plastic has soared from 2 million tons in 1950 to 460 million tons in 2019. Unless something is done, current rates of plastic production could double again by 2040. This kind of growth will result in the plastics industry exceeding its carbon budget by three times and comprises 16% of the planetary boundary of 1.5 degree Celsius temperature change control.
The report suggests five areas of focus for a Global Plastics Treaty (1) set science-based reduction targets for plastic within planetary boundaries, (2) measure all plastics emissions and hold the industry accountable, (3) promote and encourage reduce-reuse solutions, (4) Put an end to false solutions, including waste to energy and plastic incineration (including cement kilns), and (5) provide a just transition for waste workers including waste pickers.