UN endorses historic global resolution to "End Plastic Pollution"
The more we learn about the magnitude of plastic pollution contaminating the planet's rivers, oceans, and even its mountaintops, the more pressing the need becomes for wide-ranging and coordinated action. In what is being hailed as a historic day, global leaders at the UN Environmental Assembly have endorsed a first-of-a-kind resolution that addresses the full lifecycle of the material to reduce its growing impacts on the natural world.
In 1950, there was around two million metric tonnes of plastic produced globally. By 2017, this had ballooned to 348 million metric tonnes, much of which is designed for single use and improperly disposed of, subsequently making its way into the environment where it has largely untold impacts on living organisms.
While we have much to learn about plastic in this regards, scientists are starting to make alarming discoveries around the dangers it poses to humans, animals and even plants. Through research published in recent years, we know that plastic particles can alter the shape of lung cells amid broader, toxic effects on human cells, cause reproductive changes in fish and infiltrate the blood brain barrier in mice.
Rather than highlight cleanup solutions or present ways to prevent these harmful effects on living organisms, experts in the field regularly point to the need to address the problem at the source as the best course of action. This means working towards things like circular economies for plastic and the development and use of alternative materials.
Called "End Plastic Pollution," the resolution signed by global leaders from 175 nations at the UN Environment Assembly today works towards these sorts of objectives. Work will begin this year on drafting a legally binging agreement for 2024 that is expected to address the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal. This means investigating alternatives, and the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials.
“Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UN Environmental Programme. "This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.”
Source: UN Environmental Programme