Plastic waste– a major global sustainability issue – is causing negative environmental impacts across the globe and efforts are surging into curbing it.
According to the BBC, “ An estimated 8.3 bn tonnes of virgin plastic” has been produced to date.” The BBC also estimated “that as of 2015, approximately 6.3 bn tonnes of plastic waste” have been generated.“ These figures are worrisome considering the fact that a chunk of plastic waste ends up in landfills, an unsustainable waste disposal method.
In a 2017 report titled “A Whopping 91% of Plastic Isn’t Recycled” produced by Laura Parker and published by the National Geographic, it was revealed that 79% of plastic waste produced globally is sent to landfills. Unchecking the current rate of plastic waste can be very dangerous for the environment as well as its inhabitants (people and lower animals). It was stated in the BBC Science and Environment news that by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills based on current plastic production and recycling trends. To buttress the danger that unchecking plastic waste portrays, Sarah Knapton in 2017 reported in the Telegraph that if the “current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.”
Not only is the production of plastic waste in the globe outrageously high. The negative social, economic and environmental impacts associated with it are enormous as well. Environmentally, it pollutes water, land and air resources, leading to negative social and economic impacts such as diseases and financial losses in the global society.
Plastic waste is a huge global environmental concern due to the obvious fact that people undoubtedly need clean air, water and land resources to live and survive comfortably.
To combat plastic pollution, there are increasing mitigation measures being rolled out in many facets of the global economy as well as society.
There is a global plastic pollution coalition, a growing global movement of individuals, organizations, businesses, and policymakers working to achieve a world free of plastic pollution.
To this end, a plastic waste behavior change solution known as “The 4Rs Pledge” has been launched, encouraging the general public to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle plastic waste. This innovation is aimed at committing people as well as businesses to curb plastic waste.
Also, policy instruments are being used in the fight against plastic waste. For example, China has developed a policy known as the Import Ban to combat plastic waste. The new Import Ban restricts the importation of dozens of recyclable materials. Items such as unsorted paper and some plastics currently have restrictions placed on them. It is anticipated that the use of the aforementioned policy will help the country to eliminate the importation of plastic waste, thereby mitigating it.
In problem-solving situations, it is commonly said and/or heard of the impossibility to manage what cannot be measured. The United Nations, in a bid to curb plastic waste, introduced a resolution that has been signed by all of its members. As a result, 193 countries have resolved to monitor the amount of plastic they send into the ocean as well as to look for alternative ways to stop the illegal dumping of waste into the waters.
Many countries around the globe are also involved in plastic waste mitigation. For example, The Untied Kingdom uses the 5p plastic bag charge (in many stores) to prevent plastic bags from been sent to landfills. This innovation will prolong the lifespan of plastic bags and encourage the recycling of used ones (plastic bags) as well, thereby reducing plastic waste.
Entrepreneurs too are not left out in providing solutions to plastic waste. Ahmed Khan, an entrepreneur in India, uses technology to extract resources from plastics sent to landfills. He subjects them to a reaction with Asphalt to produce a compound that can be used to make roads.