3 ways we are making an impact on plastic pollution

By now you’ve likely heard this harrowing statistic: by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

While that data point is often cited to elicit a sense of doom and gloom, it actually comes with a silver lining. We’re close to completing a blueprint to effectively tackle the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans and communities – and we’re piloting the approach in a few locations to test it and learn from it.

Forecast of Plastics Volume Growth, Externalities and Oil Consumption in a Business-As-Usual Scenario
By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Image: The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics (World Economic Forum, January 2016)

Exactly one year ago, a group of the world’s most influential business leaders, policymakers, environmental experts and civil society advocates came together at the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Sustainable Development Impact summit for a frank discussion on this issue.

Everyone agreed that plastic waste and pollution had become a global crisis we could no longer ignore. More importantly, everyone recognized it was time to turn promises and platitudes into concrete and swift action – and to create a unified platform to drive and amplify this action at an unprecedented level. Thus, the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) was born.

GPAP has now been in operation for a year. During this time, we’ve officially kicked off one national partnership and laid the groundwork for launching two more. We have experienced remarkable success, navigated unique challenges and forged powerful alliances, with much more to come. Here are three key takeaways from our first year.

1. Companies have a huge role in transforming the way we use plastics. Many are stepping up to shoulder this responsibility

When plastic production sky-rocketed in the early 2000s, so did single-use plastic packaging, and – as a result – mismanaged plastic waste. The world currently generates 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, without the capacity, infrastructure and collective willpower needed to sustainably manage it. It’s no surprise then that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste flow into the ocean annually, while mismanaged waste remaining on land can trigger public health crises among vulnerable communities.

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