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Recycling Won’t Solve the Plastic Problem: The Chemical Complications Jeopardizing Our Efforts

The issue of plastic pollution is urgent and pervasive, as particles of plastic are now found everywhere, from remote cloud formations to the internal recesses of living beings. Plastics seriously threaten marine animals, contributing to climate change and declining biological diversity. It is also common for wealthier regions to ship plastic waste to countries with fewer resources for disposal.

Despite increased awareness and attempts to mitigate the effects of plastic pollution, the amount of plastic entering oceans is projected to double by 2024. Current strategies, including recycling initiatives and private sector efforts to decrease plastic usage, are insufficient. This situation has prompted critical collective measures on an international scale.

Synopsis of Global Efforts to Combat Plastic Pollution

Premium photo of recycling process at Our Endangered World article.

Recent developments in international policy show a gathering momentum towards addressing the issue. Representatives from various countries convened to consider a draft of what could lead to a historic global treaty on plastic pollution. This assembly acknowledges that solutions must encompass the entire life cycle of plastic, from design to disposal.

Many additives and chemicals are used in plastic production, which pose health risks and inhibit recycling efforts. Complex compositions greatly hinder the ability to recycle plastic, with a mere 10% currently being recycled. Advanced recycling methods have their drawbacks and can further exacerbate pollution.

Trash bins for compost, waste, and recycle
Nareeta Martin / Unplash

Lessons from previous environmental agreements inform the shaping of an effective international treaty on plastic pollution. There’s a recognition that to prevent plastics and harmful chemicals from further overwhelming ecosystems, resolutions within the treaty must be compulsory rather than voluntary, in contrast to other environmental agreements that rely on independent pledges.

As the conversation continues, it’s necessary for those involved to resist the influence of the petrochemical industry, which has notably increased its presence during negotiations. With a critical need for a plastic treaty that identifies and negates the root causes of plastic pollution, ensuring future discussions are safeguarded from corporate interference is of the essence.

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