Plastic is affecting entire ecosystems, potentially leading to a collapse in systems supporting people’s livelihoods. Plastic pollution has important economic consequences: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates the economic impact of plastic pollution on oceans at US$8 billion per year.
The current global approach to addressing the plastic crisis is failing. Governments play a key role to ensure all actors in the plastic system are held accountable for the true cost of plastic pollution to nature and people. Systemic solutions using strategic and tactical interventions are required to stop plastic pollution at its source, and bold action from a broad range of stakeholders is needed across the full plastic lifecycle to implement these interventions.
WWF calls on all governments to:
- Support further research to fill the knowledge gaps on plastic and microplastics in nature: better understand how plastic and microplastics enter living organisms and what are the exact consequences on their health.
- Establish a global scientific body to assess and synthesize best available research on plastic and microplastics in nature. Such a body would enable the scientific community to pool resources and develop common standards for measuring plastic pollution leakage.
- Agree to a legally binding international treaty to stop plastic pollution from leaking into the oceans, thereby significantly contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 14.1 and paving the way for an accountability framework to address plastic pollution on a global level.
- Establish national targets for plastic reduction, recycling and management in line with global treaty commitments, including transparent reporting mechanisms that recognize the trans-boundary nature of the problem.
- Deploy appropriate policy instruments to incentivize the creation and use of recycled plastic over new plastic, and the development of viable alternatives to plastic that have smaller environmental footprints.
- Collaborate with industries and civil society groups to ensure a systems-based approach that addresses plastic production, consumption, waste management and recycling as a singular system, and refrain from individual, fragmented or symbolic policy actions.
- Invest in ecologically-sound waste management systems domestically and in countries where a nation’s plastic waste is exported for disposal, thereby locking in long-term economic and environmental benefits.
- Legislate effective extended producer responsibility as a policy mechanism for all plastic-producing sectors to ensure the greater accountability of companies in the collection, reduction, recycling and management of the plastic waste originating in their trade chains.
- Implement sufficient monitoring and compliance measures for all policies related to the production, collection and management of waste by all stakeholders in the plastic system, supported by a shared global reporting and monitoring framework.
- Work at appropriate subnational levels to establish robust management plans and transparent accounting mechanisms that prevent plastic leakage into water systems or other mismanaged waste disposal mechanisms.