Overall, a shift to a circular economy would result in $1.27 trillion in savings for the world
According to a new report launched by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on May 16, 2023, global plastic pollution can reduce by 80 per cent by 2040 if countries and companies make shift to a circular economy.
But, any delays in execution will mean higher costs and an additional 80 million tonnes of plastic pollution by 2040.
This report, precedes a second round of negotiations on a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution being held in Paris from May 29-June3. The UNEP report urged governments and businesses to eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic uses by making three market shifts — reuse, recycle, and reorient and diversify.
For each necessary shift the report accounted for likely implications on industries dependent on plastic (polymer and chemical producers, plastic converters, brands / manufacturers, retailers, governments, consumers, waste pickers, waste management companies, and recycling companies).
Even with such measures, 100 million tonnes of plastics from single-use and short-lived products will still need to be safely dealt with annually by 2040 — with a legacy of existing plastic pollution.
Overall, the shift to a circular economy would result in $1.27 trillion in savings. A further $3.25 trillion would be saved from avoided externalities such as health, climate, air pollution, marine ecosystem degradation, and litigation-related costs.
This shift could also result in a net increase of 700,000 jobs by 2040. Investment costs for the recommended systemic change ($65 billion per year) are significant, but below the spending without this systemic change ($113 billion per year).
The report also highlighted that highest costs in both a throwaway and circular economy are operational which can be covered by Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes.
The document further addressed specific policies, including standards for design, safety, and compostable and biodegradable plastics; targets for minimum recycling; taxes; bans; communication strategies; public procurement, and labelling.
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