International Plastic Regulation on the Horizon to Reduce Use, Waste as Market Continues to Expand

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Dec 15, 2021

(Credit: Pixabay)

Several new international plastic regulation proposals are set to be presented to the United Nations in 2022, yet there is no consensus on how policing waste should be done as industries continue to address how to keep making improvements.

More than 150 countries expressed interest on a global marine plastic pollution in 2021, according to Planet Tracker, including the United States. Yet there is no agreement on how expansive regulations should be, such as if they should just cover marine plastic pollution or the complete supply chain?

Developed countries also produce far more plastics and Planet Tracker sees plastic reduction in those areas not quite matching plastic reduction growth, which could impact new regulation discussions. Although, growth of plastic consumption is especially large in developing nations and overall plastic growth will increase by two-and-a-half times by 2040.

The global plastic market was nearly $580 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow annually by 3.4% through 2028, according to a Grand View Research report.

With growth not showing signs of slowing, two new plastic regulations are set to be discussed at the next United Nations Environment Assembly at the end of February.

One calls for the NEA to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the full life cycle of plastics to prevent and reduce environmental pollution of the materials, including microplastics. The other also asks for an INC to be established and focuses on international regulations to tackle marine plastic pollution while considering the circumstances of individual countries.

The first is sponsored Peru and Rwanda and co-sponsored by 10 other countries and the European Union and is more comprehensive considering all lifecycle stages of plastics, including production and use, and encourages a circular economy. It aims to align with goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and considers a way to offer a financial structure to support the objectives of the agreement.

The second is being proposed by Japan and what Planet Tracker calls more restrictive. That proposal seeks to develop and report national action plans.

Overall plastic reduction has seen improvements across several industries. Participants in the World Wildlife Fund’s ReSource: Plastic program, for example, cut use of problematic plastics by 57% between 2018 and 2020. Companies involved in the program, including Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola also reduced plastic use by 71,000 metric tons over that period.

The plastic recycling market is also expected to grow to $47.3 billion by 2026, according to a Research and Markets report. That said, waste continues to be an international issue.

Planet Tracker says while per capita use of plastics is similar between developed and developing countries, developing countries need a significantly higher reduction pace to see overall improvement. The group says global regulations would result in small improvements at first but reduce plastic use by 6% by 2040.

Planet Tracker also compared the increased use of China, which has not committed to UN plastic regulations, to the US. The organization sees China as surging past the US in plastic use by 2030 and widely outdistancing it by 2040.

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