We are heading towards a global crisis that will affect future generations for years to come. An estimated 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually, 50% of which is designed for single-use purposes. The majority ends up in oceans, harming marine wildlife. It is estimated that by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outnumber fish.
Various countries have taken action to attempt to tackle this crisis, with world leaders imposing specialised sanctions to clean up their countries. The UN has compiled a list of the actions over 50 nations are undertaking to reduce plastic pollution in the report Single-Use Plastics; A Roadmap for Sustainability.
“When discarded in landfills or in the environment, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose,” Head of the United Nations Environment, Erik Solheim says. “The good news is that a growing number of governments are taking action and demonstrating that all nations, whether rich or poor, can become global environmental leaders.”
As we enter 2019, KCWToday takes a closer look at what some countries around the globe are doing to combat plastic pollution and climate change.
Three industry giants, KWS, in collaboration with Wavin and Total are combining their knowledge, experience, and resources to build the first road made from 100% recycled plastic. The first pilot project will be a 30-meter-long cycle path made of hollow prefabricated elements enabling water drainage and laying down of cables and pipes.
Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, the creators of the PlasticRoad, shed some light on the matter, “After an extensive period of design, testing and development, we are delighted that the PlasticRoad is becoming a reality.“
On the outskirts of Oslo a quiet revolution is taking place in the battle against plastic pollution. Incredibly, 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway are recycled, with 92% recycled to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles.
Kjell Olav Maldum, CEO of ‘Infinit’, the organisation which runs Norway’s deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, feels that countries such as the UK can learn from what is going on in Norway. “It is a system that puts the emphasis on the producer to pay for and devise a system that works.” He calls it “the most efficient and environmentally friendly system anywhere in the world.”
The government places a tax on plastic bottle producers that is reduced the more they recycle. If they collectively recycle more than 95%; which they have achieved every year since 2011, they do not have to pay the tax.
Bottles cost a deposit of 10p or 25p depending on size. People can then return it to a machine or over the counter where they bought it. A barcode is read and they are handed a coupon or cash.
At the Meeting of Environment Ministers on 27 April 2018, environment ministers announced that a voluntary phase-out of microbeads is on track with 94 percent of cosmetic and personal care products now microbead free. Ministers announced that they remain committed to eliminating remaining microbeads, and examining options to broaden the phase-out to other products. Ministers also endorsed a target of 100 percent of packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
Most state and territory governments have banned single-use lightweight plastic bags. In addition, governments led by Queensland are working to voluntarily phase out the use of heavy duty plastic bags. States’ actions on plastic bags are being supported by Australia’s major supermarkets, which are no longer using single-use plastic bags.
Recife residents are taking action to recycle plastic bottles in an attempt to clean the litter in rivers and avoid increasingly deadly floods partially caused by plastic pollution. When residents have enough bottles, they can take them to the local storage skip, where a litter collector will pay two ‘reals,’ about 40p, for 50 plastic bottles.
A collage of more than 125,000 drawings and messages from children regarding climate change has been compiled and rolled out on a shrinking Swiss glacier on November 16th, to raise awareness of climate change. Measuring 2500 square meters, it has smashed the world record for the world’s largest postcard.
The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations ‘Framework Convention on Climate Change’, COP24 was held in Katowice from 2 – 14 December. The key objective of the meeting was to adopt the implementation guidelines of the ‘Paris Climate Change Agreement’. This is crucial because it ensures that the true potential of the ‘Paris Agreement’ can be unleashed, including ramping up climate action so that the central goal of the agreement can be achieved, namely to hold the global average temperature to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Plastic bags have become a rising crisis, making up a third of Seoul’s recyclable waste. The city’s government plans to strengthen crackdowns on stores that hand out free plastic bags after purchase. “We will strengthen our campaigns urging people to use paper bags and boxes, and penalise establishments that offer plastic bags for free,” a city official said. Business owners violating the rule face fines up to 300,000 won (UK £204).
In 2017, over 291,000 plastic bags used to cover wet umbrellas were distributed in buildings around the capital. For years, China has been importing over half of the world’s paper and plastic waste, but last year it announced a ban on 24 types of solid waste including plastics and unsorted paper, due to domestic environmental issues.
In June Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced the country will eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022. The ban took immediate effect in Delhi, a city which has long struggled to cope with its plastic pollution. One of the top four polluters in the world, according to the “Times of India”, it could influence other leading nations to follow suit.