UN Launches First-Ever Global Plastics Report on World Environment Day
The theme for this year's World Environment Day, the world's largest environmental celebration which takes place June 5, is "Beat Plastic Pollution." In honor of the occasion, UN Environment released the first ever "state of plastics" report, tracking government action against plastic waste, a UN Environment press release reported.
The report, titled "Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability," found that more than 60 countries have introduced bans or levies on single-use plastics, and that bans and levies are one of the most effective ways to reduce the use of disposable plastic items.
"The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable—with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution," head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in the report's foreword. "Plastic isn't the problem. It's what we do with it."
The report summed up the extent of the plastic pollution crisis: Only 9 percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, while 12 percent have been incinerated and a full 79 percent have ended up in landfills, dumps, or the environment. Plastic bags are especially a concern and, with Styrofoam, have been the leading subject of plastic product bans. They have been found blocking waterways and worsening natural disasters, blocking sewers and providing a breeding site for disease-carrying insects, and blocking the stomachs and airways of animals like the whale that died in Thailand this weekend after consuming more than 80 of them.
Fifty percent of the countries that have implemented bans or levies did not have sufficient data to assess the environmental impact of the policies; of the other 50 percent, 30 percent of the bans significantly reduced the use of plastic bags within a year and 20 percent had little impact, either due to poor enforcement or lack of alternatives.
One success story was Morocco, where 421 tonnes of bags were seized after a ban and replaced almost entirely by fabrics. A failed case was Botswana, where a levy on retailers was issued but not enforced, the BBC reported.
The report also recommended that bans and levies be joined by positive measures such as improving waste management, moving towards a circular plastic production and consumption model and providing financial incentives for businesses and customers to develop and use alternative materials.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the report with Solheim in New Delhi Tuesday. India is this year's host country for World Environment Day, which was established by the UN in 1972 and first celebrated in 1974.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.