5 ways to win the war on plastic pollution

Almost all of the world’s newly-manufactured plastic ends up as waste or marine litter, when it could instead be used to solve big problems like affordable housing, infrastructure improvement, and sustainable consumer products.

This was the challenge that experts from academia, civil society and the private sector set out to tackle at Australia’s inaugural conference on reducing plastic pollution in the Asia Pacific.

Some 322 million tons of plastic materials were produced worldwide in 2015, according to industry group PlasticsEurope. Only about 9 per cent of this was recycled, the rest ending up in landfills—where it can take hundreds of years to decompose—or as marine litter, where it risks being ingested by all forms of marine life, from plankton to seabirds to fish that humans eat. In Ghana, for instance, plastic bags blocked storm drains and flood gates to such a severe degree in 2015 that it resulted in a flood that killed 150 people.

Proper waste management, behavior change, and designing products so that plastic does not end up as waste are all essential steps for solving plastic pollution.

Experts at the conference shared numerous solutions to tackle one of the most intractable environmental challenges today: Marine plastic litter. Here are the five most inspiring ideas.

 

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