Research & Reports

Accountability can reverse plastic pollution crisis, according to WWF report

The global plastics pollution crisis will only worsen unless all actors across the plastics value chain are made more accountable for the true cost of plastics to nature and people, warns a newly published WWF report.

The new study, titled Solving Plastic Pollution Through Accountability, finds that too much responsibility for reducing plastics pollution is currently focused on consumers and waste management and efforts will remain insufficient unless action is taken across the entire value chain.

Released ahead of a key UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting in Nairobi, the report warns that an additional 104 million metric tonnes of plastic is at risk of leakage to our ecosystems by 2030 without a drastic change in approach.

The leakage caused by this broken system is having devastating effects on wildlife and ecosystems. More than 270 species have been documented as having been harmed by entanglement, while more than 240 species have been found to have ingested plastics.

According to the report, under a business as usual scenario, the overall CO2 emissions from the plastic life cycle are expected to increase by 50 per cent, while the CO2 increase from plastic incineration is set to triple by 2030, due to wrong waste management choices.

“Our existing method of producing, using and disposing of plastic is fundamentally broken. It’s a system lacking in accountability and currently operates in a way which practically guarantees that ever-increasing volumes of plastic will leak into nature,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF-International.

“We are in the middle of a plastics crisis and we know that plastic pollution is not just ugly – it’s dangerous for marine life and we’re only beginning to understand what it does to people.

“This issue can be solved only if we apply the right level of responsibility across the whole plastic supply and value chain from design to disposal. We know the solutions – from reduction to collection, recycling and alternatives. We can solve this plastic crisis, but it requires each actor to account for the plastics they use.”

The UNEA meeting, which takes place from March 11-15, will see world leaders confronted with plastics pollution as a major environmental issue. At this meeting, WWF is urging governments to start negotiating a legally binding international treaty on marine plastics pollution.

According to Lambertini, uncoordinated and piecemeal approaches to fixing this crisis will not suffice.

“The UNEA meeting is a crucial opportunity to take the first steps towards solving this issue. Public outrage and concern for the plastic crisis is growing, along with the demand that governments and business show leadership and take decisive action now,” Lambertini continued.

This treaty would establish national targets and transparent reporting mechanisms that extend to companies. Additionally, it should provide financial and technical support for low income countries.

The report calls for measures to reinforce existing initiatives, such as eliminating problematic single-use plastics, upgrading national waste management plans and reaching 100 per cent collection rates.

On February 11, WWF launched a global petition calling for legally binding deal on marine plastics pollution, which has so far attracted 200,000 signatures.