As plastic waste piles up in the world’s landfills, sewer systems and oceans, the United Nations has set a goal to reduce plastic pollution by 80 percent by the year 2040. Inger Andersen, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, joins William Brangham to discuss the upcoming negotiations over how to realize this goal.Listening to Inger Andersen talk about how plastic containers are a response to consumers wanting convenience reminds me that my first lecture in environmental science begins with a discussion of values and one of those values is convenience. It set it, along with profit and comfort, as counterpoints to sustainability, which I call the main value of environmental science. We can have all these values; I just think they need to prioritized properly.
Andersen brought up other topics from my environmental science class, such as a circular economy. That ties into one of the science-based sustainability principles from the textbook, chemical cycling. It fits one of Commoner's Laws, nature knows best. That plastic is everywhere, including in our own bodies, demonstrates the rest of Commoner's Laws, everything is connected to everything else, everything must go somewhere, so there is no "away," and there is no free lunch. Too bad my students are taking a test today, otherwise I'd show this video to them.
PBS NewsHour was revisiting this story, as the show examined the issue last December in How countries are trying to tackle the plastic pollution problem together.
This week, representatives from 150 nations are meeting in Uruguay with the goal of dramatically reducing or eliminating all plastic pollution by 2040. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers introduced a new bill to help curtail the harmful impacts of plastic waste. Washington Post reporter Michael Birnbaum joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.This story describes government-based solutions to plastic pollution. CNBC's How Cleaning Up Plastic Pollution Is Making Millions shows market-based solutions to the problem.
For-profit companies Plastic Bank and RePurpose Global are incentivizing plastic collection and recycling in developing nations, and selling plastic credits to companies looking to offset their new plastic production. But while funding the development of recycling ecosystems in areas with poor waste management infrastructure is undeniably positive, some experts are concerned that the emerging plastic credits market will distract from the systemic changes that are truly needed to end plastic pollution.This video ties into posts about fixing plastic recycling. This includes some bad news, like the U.S. recycling about 5% of its plastic while the world recycles 9%. We're going backwards!
I might have more on the Global Plastic Pollution Treaty as soon as Thursday, which is World Oceans Day, one of the first environmental holidays I celebrated on this blog. Stay tuned.