UN Interventions

UN Interventions

According to the Frontier Technology Quarterly issue, nanotechnology, genetic modification and advanced chemical processes can help fight against plastic pollution. Along with new technology, appropriate policies and interventions at various stages too are required to develop natural substitutes and produce biodegradable plastics to minimise the negative impact of plastic. To contain, reduce, and eliminate plastic pollution, five stages of intervention were identified:

  • Stage 1 –  Replacement of plastic by its natural substitutes, and in specific cases where substitutes are not available, production and utilisation of biodegradable plastic 
  • Stage 2 – Reduction of plastic as a raw material for production of other goods and services
  • Stage 3 – Reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics-based products and services used by consumers
  • Stage 4 – Conscious disposal of plastics-based products; opting for environment-friendly options
  • Stage 5 – Ensuring proper collection and disposal of plastic waste

Nanotechnology can be used to make materials like carboard and paper more capable of protection during transportation by allowing coatings to be thinner and more cost-effective.

Alongside, advances in genetic engineering show considerable prospects of promoting natural substitutes like natural fibres, such as hemp, flax and jute. While replacing plastics with their natural substitutes is clearly the “first-best” solution, the “second-best” solution is making plastics biodegradable, through advanced chemical processes, or genetic modifications or nanotechnology for biodegradability.

UN Environment released a first comprehensive review of state of plastics in the report “Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability” wherein experiences and assessments of the various measures and regulations to beat plastic pollution were assembled. In 2018, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the report was launched in New Delhi, by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Environment Head Erik Solheim. It offered an approach to rethink how the world produces, uses and manages single-use plastics, along with recommendations to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics.

At the end of the same year, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Resources Institute (WRI) released a global review of laws and regulations on single-use plastics. The report titled ‘Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics: A Global Review of National Laws and Regulations’ called for comprehensive regulatory approaches to integrate the production, distribution, use and disposal of plastic products and aimed to serve as reference to understand current approaches to address plastic pollution.

Furthermore, in August of next year during the World Water Week in Sweden, IUCN and UN Environment Programme developed a “National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action” to enable countries to reduce plastic pollution by identifying plastic leakage hotspots along the full value chain.

Additionally, UN marine ecosystems chief called marine plastic pollution a “planetary crisis,” and many environmental groups hoped for a “Paris-style” global treaty aimed at tackling the issue of plastic.

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