ArticlePDF Available

A global plastic treaty must cap production

Authors:

Abstract

An international group of experts says the production of new plastics should be capped to solve the plastic pollution problem. The authors argue that all other measures won’t suffice to keep up with the pace of plastic production and releases. This letter was published in the journal Science.
sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL. xxx • galley printed 27 April, 2022 • • For Issue Date: ???? 1
A global plastic treaty must
cap production
In March, the UN Environment Assembly
adopted a resolution to combat plastic pollution
with a global and legally binding plastics treaty
by 2024 (1). In his News In Depth story “United
Nations to tackle global plastics pollution” (25
February, p. 801), E. Stokstad discusses many of
the ambitious provisions that were included,
such as a consideration of the whole plastic life
cycle and binding targets. However, it is unclear
whether the treaty will include a cap on
production or cover plastic chemicals. Despite
interventions by the industry (2) and objections
from the United States and other delegations,
reducing plastics at the source by curbing
production is critical.
The current mass of plastic production is
at about 450 million tons annually and set to
double by 2045 (3). The immense quantity
and diversity of both plastics and plastic
chemicals, the total weight of which exceeds
the overall mass of all land and marine ani-
mals (4), already poses enormous chal-
lenges. Ensuring the safety of every availa-
ble plastic and chemical is impossible, as
their rates of appearance in the environment
exceed governments’ capacities to assess
associated risks and control problems (5).
Plastic pollutants have altered vital Earth
system processes to an extent that exceeds
the threshold under which humanity can sur-
vive in the future (i.e., the planetary bound-
ary) (5). Because legacy plastics in the envi-
ronment break down into micro- and
nanoparticles (6), this form of pollution is irre-
trievable and irreversible (6). In addition to
the risks for human and environmental
health, the whole life cycle of plastic accounts
for 4.5% of our current greenhouse gas
emissions (7) and could consume 10 to 13%
of our remaining CO2 budget by 2050 (8).
The growing production and inevitable emis-
sions of plastics will exacerbate these prob-
lems (6).
Failing to address production will lead to
more dependence on flawed and insufficient
strategies. Some waste management tech-
nologies, such as forms of thermal and
chemical recycling, cause socioeconomic
and environmental harm (9). Much of the
plastic waste is currently exported from the
North to the Global South, which poses a
substantial threat to marginalized and vulner-
able communities and their environments
(10). Even when applying all political and
technological solutions available today, in-
cluding substitution, improved recycling,
waste management, and circularity, annual
plastic emissions to the environment can
only be cut by 79% over 20 years; after 2040,
17.3 million tons of plastic waste will still be
released to terrestrial and aquatic environ-
ments every year (11). To fully prevent plas-
tic pollution, the path forward must include a
phaseout of virgin plastic production by 2040
(12).
Melanie Be rgmann1*, Bethanie Carney
Almroth2, Susanne M. Brander3, Tridibesh
Dey
4, Dannielle S. Green
5, Sedat Gundogdu6,
Anja Krieger7, Martin Wagner8, Tony R.
Walker9
1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar
and Marine Research, D-27570 Bremerhaven,
Germany. 2Department of Biological and
Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg,
Gothenburg, Sweden. 3Department of Fisheries,
Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences, Coastal Oregon
Marine Experiment Station, Oregon State University,
Corvallis, OR 97331, USA. 4Department of Sociology,
Philosophy, and Anthropology, University of Exeter,
Exeter EX4 4PY, UK. 5Applied Ecology Research
Group, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin
University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK. 6Faculty of
Fisheries, Cukurova University, 01330 Adana, Turkey.
7Berlin, Germany. 8Department of Biology, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, Trondheim,
Norway. 9School for Resource and Environmental
Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2,
Canada.
*Corresponding author. melanie.bergmann@awi.de
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1.United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations
Environment Programme, End plastic pollution: Towards
an international legally binding instrument
(2022);
https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/han-
dle/20.500.11822/38522/k2200647_-_unep-ea-5-l-
23-rev-1_-_advance.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
2.J. Geddie, V. Volcovici, J. Brock
,
M. Dickerson, U.N. pact may
restrict plastic production: Big Oil aims to stop it" (Reu-
ters, 2022).
3.R. Geyer, in
Mare Plasticum—The Plastic Sea: Combatting
Plastic Pollution Through Science and Art,
M. Streit-Bian-
chi, M. Cimadevila, W. Trettnak, Eds. (Springer Interna-
tional Publishing, Cham, 2020), pp. 3147.
4.E. Elhacham, L. Ben-Uri, J. Grozovski, Y. M. Bar-On, R. Milo,
Nature
588, 442 (2020).
5.L. Persson
et al.
,
Environ. Sci. Technol.
56, 1510 (2022).
6.M. MacLeod, H. P. H. Arp, M. B. Tekman, A. Jahnke,
Science
373, 61 (2021).
7.L. Cabernard, S. Pfister, C. Oberschelp, S. Hellweg,
Nat. Sus-
tain.
5, 139 (2022).
8.L. A. Hamilton, S. Feit, "Plastic & Climate: The hidden costs
of a plastic planet" (Center for International Environmen-
tal Law, Washington, DC, 2019).
9.F. Demaria, S. Schindler,
Antipode
48, 293 (2016).
10.C. Wang, L. Zhao, M. K. Lim, W.-Q. Chen, J. W. Sutherland,
Resour. Conserv. Recycl.
153, 104591 (2020).
11.W. W. Y. Lau
et al.
,
Science
369, 1455 (2020).
12.N. Simon
et al.
,
Science
373, 43 (2021).
COMPETING INTERESTS
S.M.B. has served as a cochair and microplas tics expert on an
advisory panel for the California Ocean Science Trust.
10.1126/science.abq0082
... The lifecycles of discarded plastics depend on the chemical nature of the material, the characteristics of the environment in which it was disposed and the degradation processes themselves. Currently the mass of plastic production is at about 450 million tons annually and set to double by 2045 (Bergmann et al., 2022). The total weight of the actual plastic mass with its diversity in terms of plastic type and chemicals it is already a challenge. ...
... The total weight of the actual plastic mass with its diversity in terms of plastic type and chemicals it is already a challenge. In an ambitious scenario, researchers have estimated that between 20 and 53 Mt/year of plastic will be released to the aquatic ecosystem by 2030 (Bergmann et al., 2022) ... ...
... These pollutant accumulate to a level that cannot be readily reversed due to the impossibility to rapid reduce pollution levels below the threshold (MacLeod et al., 2021). In addition, the whole life cycle of plastic accounts for 4.5 % of our current greenhouse gas emissions (Bergmann et al., 2022). ...
Thesis
Microplastics in the environments are estimated to increase in the near future due to increasing consumption of plastic product and also due to further fragmentation in small pieces. The fate and effects of MP once released into the freshwater environment are still scarcely studied, compared to the marine environment. In order to understand possible effect and interaction of MPs in freshwater environment, planktonic zooplankton organisms are very useful for their crucial trophic role. In particular freshwater rotifers are one of the most abundant organisms and they are the interface between primary producers and secondary consumers. The aim of my thesis was to investigate the ingestion and the effect of MPs in rotifers from a more natural scenario and to individuate processes such as the aggregation of MPs, the food dilution effect and the increasing concentrations of MPs that could influence the final outcome of MPs in the environment. In fact, in a near natural scenario MPs interaction with bacteria and algae, aggregations together with the size and concentration are considered drivers of ingestion and effect. The aggregation of MPs makes smaller MPs more available for rotifers and larger MPs less ingested. The negative effect caused by the ingestion of MPs was modulated by their size but also by the quantity and the quality of food that cause variable responses. In fact, rotifers in the environment are subjected to food limitation and the presence of MPs could exacerbate this condition and decrease the population and the reproduction input. Finally, in a scenario incorporating an entire zooplanktonic community, MPs were ingested by most individuals taking into account their feeding mode but also the concentration of MPs, which was found to be essential for the availability of MPs. This study highlights the importance to investigate MPs from a more environmental perspective, this in fact could provide an alternative and realistic view of effect of MPs in the ecosystem.
... The current annual plastic production is approximately 450 million tons and is expected to double by 2045 1 . Approximately 146 million tons of yearly plastic manufacturing is contributed to packaging products, which have a relatively limited life cycle and frequently end up as waste in oceans and other landscapes 2,3 . Therefore, plastic packaging is an important polluter of environmental and ecological systems, affecting both human and animal health through the excessive accumulation of waste and microplastic particles. ...
... Figure 17 shows the extrapolated predictions of Tg (A) and Tm (B) in three ternary PHA spaces over their entire compositional range. The showcased co-polymers are: [1] poly(3-hydroxybutyrate -co-3-hydroxyvalerate -co-3hydroxy-4-methylvalerate), [2] poly(3-hydroxybutyrate -co-3-hydroxyhexanoate -co-3-hydroxy-5phenylvalerate), and [3] poly(3-hydroxy-5-phenylvalerate -co-3-hydroxy-6-phenylhexanoate -co-3-hydroxy-6-(p-methylphenoxy)hexanoate). These 3 co-polymers were selected since of their diverse chemistries, [ As a general trend, it can be seen from Figure 17 that both thermal properties change smoothly across the entire chemical space as a function of composition. ...
... 1] exhibits aliphatic side-chains only,[2] has a mixture of aliphatic and aromatic side-chains, and[3] exhibits aromatic sidechains only. All the predictions were performed at fixed conditions of = 300,000 g/mol and= 3.00 utilizing Spreadsheets S.7 of the SI. ...
Article
Full-text available
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are an emerging type of bioplastics that have the potential to replace petroleum-based plastics. They are biosynthetizable, biodegradable, economically viable and have a range of tunable properties. Despite their great potential, the structure and properties of PHA remain unexplored due to their theoretically infinite chemical space. Therefore, computational approaches for accurate predictions of their various properties need to be developed to effectively explore this large chemical space. For this purpose, this work presents a multitask artificial neural network (ANN) capable of predicting the glass transition temperature (Tg) and melting temperature (Tm) of PHA homo-polymers and co-polymers. The ANN inputs included the σProfiles as molecular parameters describing the monomer chemistry and their composition. In contrast, the polymer molecular weight (M) and polydispersity index (PDI) were used to describe the polymer state. The results showed that after optimizing the hyperparameters, the selected ANN architecture was remarkable in predicting the Tg and Tm of PHA with R2 values of 0.979 and 0.986 and average absolute relative deviation (AARD) of 0.476% and 0.520%, respectively. The proposed model represents an initiative to promote the development of robust, open source, and user-friendly models capable of predicting the properties of polymers based solely on molecular parameters (σProfiles), thereby saving time and resources for researchers worldwide. The framework described in this work is flexible so that it can be applied to a larger chemical space and incorporate other properties of polymers.
... Questions exist surrounding how chronic plastic exposure at sublethal concentrations can lead to bioaccumulation, or even biomagnification, and how impacts may manifest when coupled with other global change stressors such as climate change or ocean acidification [17,18]. Despite these uncertainties there is a growing consensus that we have sufficient knowledge to justify action to reduce plastic leakage [19][20][21]. ...
... With limited time and resources, and varying political willingness of those United Nations Member States, establishing which actions may yield the greatest reduction in plastic pollution are required. Utilising an integrative system approach will facilitate with the identification the leverage points where transformative changes can be implemented to cap virgin plastic production [19] and prevent leakage into the environment [20,53] in order to achieve the ambitious yet necessary goals of the UN Plastic Treaty [52]. ...
Article
To date, much effort has been placed on quantifying plastic pollution and understanding its negative environmental effects, arguably to the detriment of research and evaluation of potential interventions. This has led to piecemeal progress in interventions to reduce plastic pollution, which do not correspond to the pace of emissions. For substances that are used on a global scale and identified as hazardous, there is a need to act before irreversible damage is done. For example, the history of dichlorodiphenyltrichloethane's (DDT) use has demonstrated that legacy chemicals with properties of persistence can still be found in the environment despite being first prohibited 50 years ago. Despite the growing evidence of harm, evidence to inform actions to abate plastic pollution lag behind. In part, this is because of the multifaceted nature of plastic pollution and understanding the connections between social, economic and environmental dimensions are complex. As such we highlight the utility of integrative systems approaches for addressing such complex issues, which unites a diversity of stakeholders (including policy, industry, academia and society), and provides a framework to identify to develop specific, measurable and time-bound international policies on plastic pollution and meet the ambitious yet necessary goals of the UN Plastic Treaty.
... Proposed solutions include reducing or eliminating toxins and hazards during production, standardizing labeling to inform consumers of toxins and recyclability, and providing incentives for retrieval to remediate ocean pollution (Farrelly and Fuller, 2021). There have been calls for a cap on virgin plastic production to reduce plastic volume from the source (Simon et al., 2021;Bergmann et al., 2022), though such policy reforms must support an equitable transition away from fossil fuels so as not to harm communities reliant on the industry for employment. ...
Article
Full-text available
Plastic heterogeneously affects social systems – notably human health and local and global economies. Here we discuss illustrative examples of the benefits and burdens of each stage of the plastic lifecycle ( e.g. , macroplastic production, consumption, recycling). We find the benefits to communities and stakeholders are principally economic, whereas burdens fall largely on human health. Furthermore, the economic benefits of plastic are rarely applied to alleviate or mitigate the health burdens it creates, amplifying the disconnect between who benefits and who is burdened. In some instances, social enterprises in low-wealth areas collect and recycle waste, creating a market for upcycled goods. While such endeavors generate local socioeconomic benefits, they perpetuate a status quo in which the burden of responsibility for waste management falls on downstream communities, rather than on producers who have generated far greater economic benefits. While the traditional cost-benefit analyses that inform decision-making disproportionately weigh economic benefits over the indirect, and often unquantifiable, costs of health burdens, we stress the need to include the health burdens of plastic to all impacted stakeholders across all plastic life stages in policy design. We therefore urge the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to consider all available knowledge on the deleterious effects of plastic across the entire plastic lifecycle while drafting the upcoming international global plastic treaty.
... Approximately half of global plastics are single-use plastics designed to be discarded after a single use and are a major contributor to global marine litter (Walker et al., 2021). Most marine/plastic litter (80 %) originates from land-based sources (Jambeck et al., 2015), indicating the importance of monitoring to implement strategies that target land-based leakages, such as improved waste management, plastic-use reduction, or caps on plastic production (Kumar et al., 2021;Baxter et al., 2022;Bergmann et al., 2022). ...
Article
Baseline marine litter abundance and distribution on Saint Martin Island, Bay of Bengal, were assessed. Seventy-two transects (100-150 m) along 12 km of coastline were surveyed for litter items every two weeks for two months. The most abundant items were polythene bags, food wrappers, plastic bottles/caps, straws, styrofoam, plastic cups, plastic fragments, fishing nets, clothes, and rubber buoys. Tourism, local markets, hotels, domestic waste, and fishing activities were primary sources of marine litter. According to the mean clean coast index (CCI), all transects were clean, of which 11.3 % and 14.1 % of sandy beaches and rocky shores with sandy beaches were reported dirty, respectively. Northern Saint Martin Island comprised sandy beaches (2.8 %) and was extremely dirty. In addition, plastic abundance index (PAI) analysis showed that 24 % of sites, out of 72 sites, were under "very high abundance", 33 % were "high abundance", 33 % showed "moderate abundance", and 4 % were classified as "low abundance".
... 3 Consequently, it was estimated that by 2030 up to 53 million metric tons (Mt) of plastics per year could be emitted into our waterways, 4 and that the volume of global plastic waste could nearly triple by 2060, 5 if the upward trend is not curtailed by the forthcoming global plastics treaty. 6 In addition to the insoluble, solid or semi-solid polymers in plastics that have received much public attention due to their "visibility" in the environment, many other polymers, including many that are water-soluble, are broadly used in different industrial applications and consumer products, including but not limited to detergents, household items, cosmetics and personal care products, wastewater treatment aids, agricultural soil conditioners, and fertilizer and pesticide formulations. 7,8 Likely due to the analytical challenges of detecting soluble polymers in environmental samples, these polymer types have remained "invisible" and received little public attention so far. ...
Article
Full-text available
Polymers are the main constituents of many materials and products in our modern world. However, their environmental safety is not assessed with the same level of detail as done for non-polymeric chemical substances. Moreover, the fundamentals of contemporary regulatory approaches for polymers were developed in the early 1990s, with little change occurring since then. Currently, the European Commission is working on a proposal to initiate registration of polymers under the European Union's (EU) chemicals legislation REACH. This provides a unique opportunity for regulation to catch up on recent scientific advances. To inform this process, we here critically appraise the suggested regulatory approaches to the environmental assessment and management of polymers against the latest scientific findings regarding their environmental fate, exposure, and effects, and identify the remaining critical knowledge gaps. While we use the EU draft proposal as an example, our findings are broadly applicable to other polymer legislations worldwide, due to the similarity of polymer assessment criteria being used. We emphasize four major aspects that require more attention in the regulation of polymers: (i) increased transparency about chemical identities, physical characteristics and grouping approaches for in-use polymers; (ii) improved understanding of the environmental fate of polymers and materials composed of polymers across size and density categories and exposure profiles; (iii) comprehensive assessment of the environmental hazards of polymers, considering the effects of degradation and weathering and taking into account the actual uptake, long-term toxicity, and geophysical impacts; and (iv) consideration of the production volume and use/release patterns in determining regulatory data and testing requirements. Transitioning toward a toxic-free and sustainable circular economy will likely require additional policy instruments that will reduce the overall complexity and diversity of in-use polymers and polymeric materials.
Article
The environmental effects of the widespread use and production of plastic have gained attention in recent years. Plastic pollution in marine environments, and limitations to systems of circularity and recycling, are increasingly recognised as serious global problems. Policies and governance around plastic are thus expected to expand in scope. This article examines the Swedish public’s opinions on plastic policies using panel survey data (N = 1069) to answer what kinds of policies and regulations hold public support in Sweden. We find that there is relatively high support among Swedes for a wide range of policies to address the issues of plastics. The greatest approval is found around soft policies e.g., the extension of already established regulations, recycling initiatives, and information campaigns. Regulatory and economic policies, such as taxes, bans, and stricter regulations, enjoy comparatively less support from the public, yet a majority is also supporting such measures. There are significant differences between demographic groups: women and people with a left-wing political orientation feel more positive about regulatory and economic policies than men and people with a right-wing political orientation. The most widely approved policies are those concerning recycling and waste management system developments. In contrast to other policies that involve economic incentives, the expansion of the deposit-refund scheme stands out as a policy with very high support across a wide range of groups. Overall, the widespread support for plastic regulation in Sweden indicates favourable conditions for the implementation of several plastics-related policies that go beyond the present measures.
Article
Landfills and dumpsites are the final point of solid waste deposition and management in developing countries due to lack of recycling methods. Herein, we have investigated the occurrence, polymer composition and characterization of plastic pollution at the Lemna solid waste dumpsite, Calabar Nigeria. A total of 21 plastics were sampled and categorized into 10 representative plastic types for effective identification and characterization. The plastic categories were PET bottles, LDPE, PP, HDPE, PS tray, PVC fiber and PVC others. PET bottles were the most abundant (28.5%), followed by PP > LDPE > HDPE, while PS trays, PVC fiber and PVC others were the least prevalent plastics at the dumpsite. FT-IR analysis showed that only 5 different plastics polymers (PP, PET, PE, PVC, and PS) were identified and characterized, out of the 10 plastics categories collected. However, PP and PET were the most abundant plastic polymers at the dumpsite consisting of 33.3- and 28.6%, respectively, and reflecting their widespread application in domestic and household packaging products. PS was the least abundant plastic (4.8%) polymer. We used the density gradient separation techniques and recovered only three (3) plastic polymer types from soil at the dumpsite, namely - PET, PS, and PP with sizes >5mm in diameter and indicating macroplastics. Given that plastics are vectors of contaminants of legacy and emerging concern, their continuous deposition at dumpsites represent a significant environmental, human and wildlife health issue of concern.
Article
Full-text available
The presence of microplastics (MPs) in processed seafood is a growing concern. In this study, 33 different canned fish brands belonging to 7 producers were purchased from the Turkish market and investigated. MPs composition, possible sources, and potential intake were assessed. Light microscopy was used to quantify potential MPs, and micro-Raman microscopy was used to identify the polymer types. The results showed that all the samples had at least one MPs particle, and fragments were the most abundant (57.3%) shapes of MPs. Polyolefin (21.88%) was the most common polymer type. The results showed that packaging and the production processes are the main possible sources of MPs. Human intake estimation risk is relatively lower since canned fish consumption is relatively low. The findings suggest that the risk related to MPs in canned fish should be considered one of the components of food safety management systems.
Article
Full-text available
We submit that the safe operating space of the planetary boundary of novel entities is exceeded since annual production and releases are increasing at a pace that outstrips the global capacity for assessment and monitoring. The novel entities boundary in the planetary boundaries framework refers to entities that are novel in a geological sense and that could have large-scale impacts that threaten the integrity of Earth system processes. We review the scientific literature relevant to quantifying the boundary for novel entities and highlight plastic pollution as a particular aspect of high concern. An impact pathway from production of novel entities to impacts on Earth system processes is presented. We define and apply three criteria for assessment of the suitability of control variables for the boundary: feasibility, relevance, and comprehensiveness. We propose several complementary control variables to capture the complexity of this boundary, while acknowledging major data limitations. We conclude that humanity is currently operating outside the planetary boundary based on the weight-of-evidence for several of these control variables. The increasing rate of production and releases of larger volumes and higher numbers of novel entities with diverse risk potentials exceed societies’ ability to conduct safety related assessments and monitoring. We recommend taking urgent action to reduce the harm associated with exceeding the boundary by reducing the production and releases of novel entities, noting that even so, the persistence of many novel entities and/or their associated effects will continue to pose a threat.
Article
Full-text available
Research on the environmental impacts from the global value chain of plastics has typically focused on the disposal phase, considered most harmful to the environment and human health. However, the production of plastics is also responsible for substantial environmental, health and socioeconomic impacts. We show that the carbon and particulate-matter-related health footprint of plastics has doubled since 1995, due mainly to growth in plastics production in coal-based economies. Coal-based emissions have quadrupled since 1995, causing almost half of the plastics-related carbon and particulate-matter-related health footprint in 2015. Plastics-related carbon footprints of China’s transportation, Indonesia’s electronics industry and India’s construction sector have increased more than 50-fold since 1995. In 2015, plastics caused 4.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, 6% of global coal electricity is used for plastics production. The European Union and the United States have increasingly consumed plastics produced in coal-based economies. In 2015, 85% of the workforce required for plastics consumed by the European Union and the United States was employed abroad, but 80% of the related value added was generated domestically. As high-income regions have outsourced the energy-intensive steps of plastics production to coal-based economies, renewable energy investments throughout the plastics value chain are critical for sustainable production and consumption of plastics.
Article
Full-text available
Plastic pollution accumulating in an area of the environment is considered “poorly reversible” if natural mineralization processes occurring there are slow and engineered remediation solutions are improbable. Should negative outcomes in these areas arise as a consequence of plastic pollution, they will be practically irreversible. Potential impacts from poorly reversible plastic pollution include changes to carbon and nutrient cycles; habitat changes within soils, sediments, and aquatic ecosystems; co-occurring biological impacts on endangered or keystone species; ecotoxicity; and related societal impacts. The rational response to the global threat posed by accumulating and poorly reversible plastic pollution is to rapidly reduce plastic emissions through reductions in consumption of virgin plastic materials, along with internationally coordinated strategies for waste management.
Article
Full-text available
Humanity has become a dominant force in shaping the face of Earth1–9. An emerging question is how the overall material output of human activities compares to the overall natural biomass. Here we quantify the human-made mass, referred to as ‘anthropogenic mass’, and compare it to the overall living biomass on Earth, which currently equals approximately 1.1 teratonnes10,11. We find that Earth is exactly at the crossover point; in the year 2020 (± 6), the anthropogenic mass, which has recently doubled roughly every 20 years, will surpass all global living biomass. On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her bodyweight is produced every week. This quantification of the human enterprise gives a mass-based quantitative and symbolic characterization of the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene.
Article
Full-text available
A mess of plastic It is not clear what strategies will be most effective in mitigating harm from the global problem of plastic pollution. Borrelle et al. and Lau et al. discuss possible solutions and their impacts. Both groups found that substantial reductions in plastic-waste generation can be made in the coming decades with immediate, concerted, and vigorous action, but even in the best case scenario, huge quantities of plastic will still accumulate in the environment. Science , this issue p. 1515 , p. 1455
Article
Full-text available
Recent scholarship on the materiality of cities has been criticized by critical urban scholars for being overly descriptive and failing to account for political economy. We argue that through the conceptualization of urban metabolisms advanced by ecological economists and industrial ecologists, materialist and critical perspectives can be mutually enriching. We focus on conflict that has erupted in Delhi, India. Authorities have embraced waste-to-energy incinerators, and wastepickers fear that these changes threaten their access to waste, while middle class residents oppose them because of their deleterious impact on ambient air quality. We narrate the emergence of an unlikely alliance between these groups, whose politics opposes the production of a waste-based commodity frontier within the city. We conclude that the materiality and political economy of cities are co-constituted, and contestations over the (re)configuration of urban metabolisms span these spheres as people struggle to realize situated urban political ecologies.
Chapter
This book chapter provides a comprehensive account of global plastic production, use, and fate from 1950 to 2017 and thus covers all plastic humankind has ever made. It starts with a brief introduction of plastic’s origin and nomenclature, followed by a detailed global material flow analysis of the 68 years of plastic mass production, use, and end-of-life management. The analysis includes all major polymer resins and fibers, as well as all additives, and discusses production by polymer, use by consuming sector, and end-of-life management by waste management type. The historical analysis is followed by a discussion of the current global state of plastic production, use, and end-of-life management. The chapter closes with trend projections from 2017 to 2050, which show that even if recycling and incineration rates were to increase at historical rates, this would not be enough to stem the tide of plastic waste. This suggests that changes and improvements in waste management strategies need to be supplemented with serious source reduction efforts in order to make our use of plastic more sustainable.