Global efforts strengthened to reduce plastic waste

Monday, 2019-06-17 16:28:24
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Environment and energy ministers from the G20 countries wrap up their two-day meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on Sunday, agreeing to the outlines of a new international framework to tackle marine plastic waste. (Photo: KYODO)
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NDO – Environment and energy ministers from G20 countries recently convened a meeting in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, during which they agreed to set up a new international framework in order to tackle the problem of marine plastic waste, one of the most pressing threats to the environment presently.

The combination of energy and environmental policies is expected to be more effective in combating climate change and protecting the “green planet”.

This was the first time the G20 group organised a conference with the participation of ministers in charge of both energy and environment. The combination of these two areas is said to help the world make more appropriate and binding policies. Similar to the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, the solution to plastic waste requires the efforts and cooperation of the international community. This is one of the top priorities on the G20 agenda. In addition, setting up new international regulations to realise the goal of reducing plastic waste, an urgent global issue today, was also the main content discussed at the two-day meeting in Karuizawa.

As the host country and the chair of the conference, Japan took the lead in dealing with the problem of plastic waste. Tokyo proposed the idea of establishing a new international framework to promote efforts in reducing plastic waste discharged into the oceans, as well as discussing technical assistance for developing countries in reducing plastic litter. The meeting focused on discussing the development of a system of norms applicable to both emerging economies and developing countries. Developed countries are expected to announce action plans, including solutions to increase the plastic recycling rates and support developing nations. Participants also discussed the mechanism of periodic reporting and mutual inspection, and the expansion of data collection and analysis in order to thoroughly understand the status of ocean plastic waste worldwide. A common facility to address plastic waste will be installed in Indonesia this autumn.

As agreed at the conference, G20 member states will take voluntary measures to reduce the amount of plastic waste dumped into the oceans and report on their activities periodically. This is an effort of G20 members in the face of marine plastic waste causing widespread pollution and affecting the habitat of marine animals. According to the United Nations, humans discharge about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, of which up to eight million tonnes float into the oceans. Most plastic waste come from Asian countries, including G20 member states. Micro-sized plastic particles of less than 5 mm can accumulate in fish which are dangerous to human health if ingested.

A report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WFF) on the level of plastic pollution has warned that each week, a person could ingest a bank card (equivalent to 5g of plastics) into his body. The comparison shows that the harm of microplastics to human health has reached the level of red alert. In response to a call for the world’s urgent action to end plastic pollution, many European Union (EU) member states have issued a ban on the use of major microplastics in the production of cosmetics. The European Parliament has recommended the European Commission establish a continent-wide ban on all microplastics used in the production of cosmetics and detergents from now until 2020, while taking measures to reduce the plastic particles discharged from fabrics, tires, paint and cigarette filters.

According to statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as many as 127 countries around the world have issued laws related to the use of plastic bags, 91 of which have banned or restricted the production, imports and distribution of plastic products. A total of 180 countries have reached a consensus on drastically reducing the amount of plastic waste dumped into the oceans.

The Japanese government has launched a set of policies aiming to reduce plastic waste in the oceans, as part of the efforts to raise the importance of this problem at the G20 Summit, scheduled to take place in Osaka, Japan at the end of this month. With a new international framework set up within the G20, the world’s joint hands in resolving marine plastic waste, one of the most pressing environmental problems, are expected to ease a big concern for humanity in the fight against climate change.