20 Jul Plastic Pollution in Oceans: Applying an SDG Framework to Drive Cross-Industry Action
The rising volume of plastic waste in oceans and its negative impacts on marine ecosystems is rapidly becoming a global crisis. Only 9% of plastic packaging gets recycled resulting in 8 million metric tonnes of plastics ending up in oceans each year. Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, which could create an environmental crisis as critical as climate change impacting biodiversity, food safety and human health. If we don’t change tack, by 2050 oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
To address plastic pollution, public pressure has been growing on beverage companies to increase recycled content of their plastic bottles. However, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies that use large amounts of low-value, multi-layered plastics for product packaging are also increasingly coming under the spotlight in emerging economies such as India. These companies alongwith sportswear brands that are converting ocean plastics to materials for shoes, have an equally important role to play in designing a systemic response to plastic waste. The New Plastics Economy Initiative, a new cross-value chain initiative, will be bringing together FMCG companies, retailers, plastic producers, cities and businesses to drive collaborative projects on circular approaches to plastics over the next 3 years.
This form of cross-industry alliance is a step in the right direction. Such efforts can be even more transformative at a systemic level if they apply an SDG lens to better understand converging pressures and design appropriate responses. The SDGs can provide a guiding framework to drive industry action that explores how other issues are inter-connected with plastics pollution. For example, creating a circular economy around plastic re-use and reprocessing contributes not only to addressing SDG 14 but also SDG 11, 12 and 15 due its impacts on urban ecosystems, waste management, and biodiversity. A cross-industry alliance could engage municipal authorities and city governments to address plastic waste disposal in cities driving investment in more sustainable and circular waste management programmes to help address waste generation at source.
(Photo Credit: Waste on a natural reservoir / Paolo Margari / Flickr)