World must ‘work as one’ to end plastic pollution: Guterres
“Every year, over 400 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide – one third of which is used just once”, said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
2,000 truckloads a day
“Every day, the equivalent of over 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic is dumped into our oceans, rivers, and lakes.”
He noted that microplastics are finding their way into the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe.
“Plastic is made from fossil fuels – the more plastic we produce, the more fossil fuel we burn, and the worse we make the climate crisis”, the UN chief said.
We have the solutions
But solutions are at hand: including the legally binding agreement that remains on course, following five days of negotiations involving more than 130 nations last week.
“This is a promising first step, but we need all hands-on deck”, he said, stressing that a new report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that plastic pollution can be reduced by a staggering 80 per cent by 2040 – if humankind acts now to reuse, recycle, and pivot away from plastics.
“We must work as one – governments, companies, and consumers alike – to break our addiction to plastics, champion zero waste, and build a truly circular economy.
“Together, let us shape a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.”
The statistics for the damage caused by plastics are daunting: more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled, according to UN figures.
An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually - approximately the weight of 2,200 Eiffel Towers.
Plastic on the menu
Microplastics – defined as plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter – find their way into everything we consume and breathe. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles per year –and many more if inhalation is considered.
Discarded or burnt single-use plastic harms human health and biodiversity and pollutes every ecosystem from mountain tops to the ocean floor.
With available science and solutions to tackle the problem, governments, companies and other stakeholders must scale up and speed actions to solve this crisis, said the UN, underscoring the importance of World Environment Day ”in mobilizing transformative action from every corner of the world.”
‘Less bad, is simply not good enough’
General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi spoke at a commemoration event marking World Environment Day at UN Headquarters in New York, congratulating Côte d'Ivoire, which is this year’s official host.
The President spoke about microplastics and the hazards they pose, reiterating that we need to move away from a “throw away” culture into a circular economy, that relies steadfastly on science – from data collection and policy making to the implementation of best practice.
“As we bump up against planetary boundaries, less bad is simply not good enough. Now is the time for governments, cities, businesses and other organizations to unite around a just transition to a circular economy for plastic”, he said.
Broad and systematic changes are needed which operate from the long-term benefit of the world’s eight billion people, he added.
ECOSOC President, Lachezara Stoeva, said that to tackle the challenge of plastic pollution fully, there needed to be an all-hands-on-deck approach by the international community, “addressing the full cycle of plastics from production to consumption and disposal.”
Stressing that beating the scourge was possible, she said it was crucial to leave no country behind.
“Financial support, capacity building and technological assistance should be provided to developing countries to facilitate their transition from unsustainable patterns of consumption and production to circular economic models that promote reusability and reduce waste.”