The UN Environmental Assembly has endorsed a first-of-a-kind resolution that addresses the full lifecycle of the material to reduce its growing impacts on nature.
In 1950, there were almost two million metric tons of plastic produced globally. By 2017, this had escalated to 348 million metric tons, much of which is designed for single-use and disposed of in an improper manner. This makes its way into the environment where it has largely untold impacts on living organisms.
Through research published in recent years, it is discovered 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.
Experts have always pressed for addressing the problem at the source and deemed it 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 objectives. Work will begin this year on drafting a legally binding agreement for 2024. This 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 Program. “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.”