Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

24 Apr 2024

Plastic pollution and our future

Posted by Michael Keating

Are we smart enough to invent a better and safer future? Negotiations for a global treaty on plastic pollution throws the question in our face. The world is awash in plastic waste. Worse than the disgusting sight of plastic waste strewn across the landscape and wrapped around dying animals is the tiny bits of plastic in our air, water food and our bodies.

The United Nations Environment Programme says that every year we produce about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste and only 10 per cent has been recycled. Every day the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes. We are increasingly breathing, eating and drinking tiny plastic particles formed when larger pieces of waste get ground down in the environment. This week people from around the world are meeting in Ottawa trying to hammer out a global treaty to control plastic pollution. Some are pushing for bans while the plastics industry is trying to stave off controls as it plans to increase production.

It’s unlikely we can or should ban all plastics because many play key roles in the way we live. But it’s obvious that we have to stop the throwaway culture that is threatening our environment and our health. Many countries have brought in bans or controls on single use plastic items such as shopping bags. We could also limit the number of types of plastic to make it easier to recycle them.

Compared to controlling greenhouse gases, controlling plastics is much easier. Doing it will be a test of our ability to control pollution and move to more sustainable development.

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