WWF Proposes Global Ban on ‘High-Risk, Unnecessary’ Single-Use Plastics

by | May 15, 2023

Plastic and other waste floating in the ocean with a jelly fish swimming.

(Credit: WWF)

The World Wildlife Fund has called on governments to implement a global ban on what it calls high-risk and unnecessary single-use plastics.

Research on plastic pollution done by WWF and Eunomia will be presented at the UN plastic pollution treaty talks later this month, showing the feasibility of banning certain plastics from circulation. The report identifies the most damaging plastics currently circulating in the economy and environment and proposes how governments and corporations might eliminate, reduce, and manage them. Such products include plastic cutlery, e-cigarettes, and microplastics in cosmetics, among others.

Attempts at regulating individual plastic items at the national level have not yet proven effective. The WWF report presents a solution that helps avoid legislative loopholes of previous regulations by creating two categories of plastic: those that can be feasibly reduced in the short term (Class I) and those that cannot (Class II). The report proposes the global elimination of Class I plastics. Class II plastics would also be addressed through worldwide management, recycling, and responsible disposal efforts.

The WWF’s research on the consequences of plastic pollution on both human and environmental health supports its proposal for urgent, global action.

Projected Effects of Unregulated Plastic Pollution

The WWF presents plastic regulation as the obvious answer to the widespread desire to transition to a circular economy by eliminating the use of single-use plastics.

“With 86% of Americans in favor of transitioning from an economy that relies on single-use products to one that is truly circular – the message is clear – it’s time to move away from problematic plastics,” said Erin Simon, vice president and head of plastic waste and business for WWF-US. Despite this overwhelming support for these changes, the use of single-use plastic remains on the rise, largely due to a lack of regulation and increased production in the petrochemical industry, according to WWF.

Without immediate action toward regulation, plastic pollution will only worsen. Research predicts that on the world’s current trajectory, global plastic production will double and the total plastic pollution in oceans would quadruple by 2040. The majority of countries that use single-use plastics are of middle-to-upper income, and according to WWF Plastics Policy Coordinator for Africa Zaynab Sadan, many countries don’t have the infrastructure to handle massive amounts of plastic waste projected to enter circulation in the coming years.

Plastic remains in circulation across multiple industries for its low prices and versatility, but over half of all plastic created is used for short-lived purposes. Despite efforts toward recycling a material that takes hundreds of years to degrade, less than 10% of plastic is actually recycled.

The WWF’s call to eliminate certain plastic products from circulation globally falls in line with the EPA’s recent draft for addressing national plastic pollution in the U.S. The WWF strategy also directly addresses the root cause of plastic pollution with the goal of completely eliminating certain plastics from circulation.

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