Today, a million plastic bottles are consumed in a minute and 91% of this waste is not recycled. Almost 40% of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then thrown away. Across the world, less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050. By the same year, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean.
There are multiple challenges partly because the types of microplastics entering the marine environment are incredibly diverse. Synthetic fabrics release tiny strands or microfibers. More than 700,000 microscopic fibres can be flushed into drains from a single washing machine load. Many reach oceans where they can remain for hundreds of years. Swallowed by fish and other sea creatures, microplastics are finding their way into our food chain.
Almost half of all plastic ever manufactured has been made since 2000 and its production is set to double in the next 20 years. Plastics are a cost-effective, durable, versatile, and indispensable material for the global economy, however, numbers tell us that a linear consumption model is no longer sustainable.
This World Environment Day, the UN urges us to take concrete steps to #BeatPlasticPollution along with a report outlining a range of alternative materials that can be used to replace single-use plastics.
As regulators across the globe have already started banning the single-use plastic products to reduce marine litter, it is time for businesses to come up with alternative solutions – not least for the sake of their bottom line. The numbers are staggering. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion to 120 billion annually, is lost to the economy.
We should transform our production patterns, push the limits of the value chain as hard as possible, and take a comprehensive approach for the social, economic, and environmental impact of plastics.