The fight against plastic pollution gained serious support this year with Australia joining over 170 countries in agreeing to the formation of an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to create a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution by the end of 2024.
The focus couldn’t come soon enough as plastic pollution continues to grow. In Australia alone, an estimated 130,000 tonnes of plastic enter marine environments annually. Of the plastic disposed of responsibly, the vast majority is currently ending up in landfill, with only 13% currently recycled.
Researchers released a study in early October showing that microplastic exposure to humans is now taking place from as young an age as newborns. The study of 34 breast feeding mothers found that samples from 26 of the participant’s breastmilk contained microplastics. A worrying result that shows even the newest humans are being exposed to this invasive material.
In preparation for the negotiations to take place in late November for the creation of the binding instrument, the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution was formed to gather support across three goals. These goals have been outlined as:
1. Restraining plastic consumption and production to sustainable levels
2. Enabling a circular economy for plastics that protects the environment and human health
3. Achieving environmentally sound management and recycling of plastic waste.
So far, the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution has gained support from 29 member countries from around the world. These include founding countries Rwanda and Norway as well as a variety of countries from small island nations to large economic powerhouses.
The breadth of participation in the coalition shows the broad support to reduce plastic waste across the globe. The next steps will involve INC negotiating the details of the treaty to end plastic pollution and setting up the mechanisms under which it will operate as a legally binding instrument.
What is happening in Australia to manage plastic
Positive steps towards managing plastic locally have included:
· In 2021 Australia joined neighbours New Zealand and pacific island nations to form the ANZPAC Plastic Pact Oceania group: a network of business, NGOs and government partners to focus on reducing plastic pollution and work towards completely recyclable content.
· Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week running from the 7th to 13th of November will raise awareness amongst consumers on the importance recycling.
· Every state and territory has now agreed to a nationally consistent ban on certain single-use plastics. This unified approach will help to clear confusion caused by the previous state-led approaches.
· Government sponsored grant funding opportunities have been made available to NSW businesses with plastic reduction innovations.
· The National Plastics Plan 2021 outlines that by December 2022, polystyrene in loose fill and moulded consumer packaging and food service containers will be phased out.
· By 2023, 80% of supermarket products will display the Australasian Recycling Label, providing evidence based instructions for how to appropriately dispose plastic packaging as well as other packaging types.
Positive actions you can take to reduce your plastic footprint
· Before leaving home pack a zero waste kit of your own cups, drink bottles, storage containers, shopping bags and cutlery.
· Add a microplastics filter to your washing machine.
· Share these recycling tips and resources with family and friends.
Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.