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A billion tons more plastic could cover the earth by 2040



Unfortunately, often the environment. The modeling showed that currently 30 million tons of plastic are dumped on land each year. Almost 50 million tons are burned out outdoors. Another 11 million tons flow into the sea. According to the model, these numbers could be all the more astonishing by 2040: 77 million tons were dumped on land, 133 million burned and 29 million sent to sea.

The model showed that if we reduce plastic consumption as much as possible, we can reduce total waste by 30 percent. By using new materials such as compostable polymers, a further 17 percent of the waste can be reduced. Robust recycling programs could lead to an additional 20 percent reduction.

Despite all of this, plastic waste will still be a serious problem. “By doing everything we think is possible much As we can, we still have 5 million tons left, ”says Bailey. “It̵

7;s a huge improvement over 29 million tons, but there is still an innovation gap. We still don’t have the technology and we don’t have the materials we need to reduce it to zero. “

The central, ongoing problem is the broken economy of the recycling industry: it is difficult for companies to make more money from the sale of recycled materials than it takes to process the material. This is largely due to the crater-like oil price, which makes it extremely cheap to simply pump out more virgin plastic.

According to Bailey, investing more in recycling is a win-win situation: they reduce plastic pollution and at the same time create jobs that are more important than ever after the economic consequences of the pandemic. “There is no point in asking people to be nice to the planet just because it would be nice to the planet,” says Bailey. “We know from the history of attempts at climate change that this approach is limited. It must be economically feasible. “

Concentrating on recyclers leaves the manufacturers of all these plastics – soda bottlers and any number of other manufacturers – off the hook. “This is not a problem that can be solved on the back of taxpayers,” said George Leonard, chief scientist at Ocean Conservancy, who was not involved in this new research.

But how about this: A manufacturing tax on plastic, just like governments are starting to set a price for carbon. The idea with a carbon tax is that governments pollute large polluters like electricity suppliers to spit out CO2ndand keep them from spitting out more carbon. They then use the proceeds to finance investments in climate protection measures such as the infrastructure for green energy.

A plastic tax would work the same way. A government would charge a fee to companies using virgin plastic and encourage them to switch to fully recycled or paper-based alternative materials that collapse when they reach the environment. “Then take that revenue and use it for solutions to the problem,” says Leonard. “So that could invest in waste management infrastructure, that could invest in recycling.” Really, it’s not a far-fetched idea: Supporters of California’s recycling and plastic pollution reduction law collect signatures to get a plastic tax on the ballot in 2022. But to really change corporate behavior, the idea would have to be expanded nationally and then globally.

Without drastic and immediate measures, the fight against plastic pollution will go the same way as the fight against climate change: we have waited far too long to stop CO2nd There is a risk that we will wait far too long to turn the plastic plug off. “What really makes this paper clear is that any future scenario for a healthy planet will require that this growth in plastic production be stopped from year to year,” says Leonard. “It started in 1950 and continues to accelerate. And there really is no practical solution that does not cause this curve to bend. “


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