300 mln tonnes plastic ends up in global waste basket every year: UNEP Official

ISLAMABAD, Feb 1 (APP): Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen on Wednesday said each year 400 million tonnes of plastic products were generated out of which 300 million tonnes ended up in the global wastebasket recklessly, creating a big hazard for the environment.

She was delivering a lecture on ‘Environmental governance in addressing plastic pollution and the role of CSOs’ here at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Andersen said the use of plastic has done to us ease in our day-to-day activities. “UNEP is not anti-plastic but anti-plastic in the environment,” she said, adding that once the plastic is part of the economy, it should be kept in the cycle rather than being used once and then disposed of where it ends up in landfills, marine, and water bodies as well as in low-lying urban vicinities.

She maintained that Pakistan was the second largest domestic market for plastic with a very limited recycling potential of 18% and only 3% of plastic was recycled in Pakistan.

Highlighting the extensive infiltration of plastic in our lives and the entire value chain, the UNEP official suggested that “we must be the part of the solution and must have a shared responsibility, particularly not only in using plastic packaging for goods but also at different stages during transit.” She said it is the responsibility of brands and consumers to reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse by rethinking packaging and how it is delivered to consumers.

She called upon the civil society to play its role in advocating the issue, generating scientific data, and creating awareness to reduce plastic waste in the environment. As we make strides in this regard, we must think of garbage collectors, especially the young children, that they must not be left behind and should be provided an alternative, safe, decent livelihoods, and sustainable incomes, she elaborated.

Stressing the need for stringent legislation to govern the plastic content to reduce waste and improve recycling and extended producer guarantees, she said even if plastic is mechanically or chemically recycled, we must consider that it does not come without cost and chemical recycling, particularly with a huge carbon footprint.

Responding to a question, she said stringent regulations, awareness of the content and chemistry of plastic and incentivization are critical to reduce plastic waste. “As many as 36 countries in Africa have banned single-use plastics and public awareness is very high deterring the use of plastics there.”

To another question about the financing gap, she said strict public enforcement will catalyze action from the private sector to increase recycling and discourage the use of virgin plastics. She emphasized that when the cost of plastic use for businesses increases, the private sector will find and mobilize resources for themselves.

To the other question, she responded that 65% of global plastic waste comes in single-use while only 35% is recycled which must be increased, The trans-boundary dumping of waste through illegal means is still a pertinent issue, which calls for an increase in vigilance and requires solutions to address the plastic challenge rather than pushing it to different locations, she concluded.

Ambassador (R) Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairperson of the SDPI Board of Governors, in his welcome remarks, said out of a total 9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s, 7 billion tons of plastic was still circulating in various forms in landfills, dumps and aquatic bodies, etc. making it one of the most pertinent contemporary challenges.

Kakakhel said currently UNEP is spearheading momentous initiatives for preventing further increases and potentially ruling back the hazardous plastic pollution as a consequence of the industrial revolution. Lauding the efforts of UNEP and the World Environment Assembly, he called for initiating inter-governmental negotiations for developing a legally binding instrument for plastic pollution particularly the pollution of the marine environment by 2024.

Pakistan is also confronted with the industrial revolution and despite drives in major cities to control and minimize the use of micro and macro-plastics, so far no remarkable progress has been achieved, he added

APP Services