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Global EPR Treaty for Plastic waste: Is it time?
| 5 Min read

‘There is no time to waste’. The fast pace of plastic production and generation of plastic waste combined with improper disposal of the waste generated is a cause of concern. There is an urgent need for a Global Treaty or Agreement addressing and curbing the growing waste in the world. The blog is our take on why we need a global treaty if there are any existing treaties and how Recykal is taking steps to spread the word on the use of digitisation for waste management.

Why we need a global scheme?

Plastic is not regional, neither is plastic waste

Plastics supply chains are global. Right from the extraction of the petrochemicals, used to manufacture the plastics, to the inject/molding of plastics, their transformation into other products, etc. they all occur across the globe. To think of it, the end of life of plastics i.e plastic waste is a global phenomenon too. Read on to know how it affects the economies around the world.

Plastic waste is a global phenomenon

Oceans they say are the ‘final resting place’ for plastic waste. Studies have found that plastic waste if not managed properly ends up in the oceans. The below are few instances where plastic waste generated on land has ended up in the waterways, and oceans in particular. Not just the waterways near you!

At least 12 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and makeup 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Floating plastic debris are currently the most abundant item of marine litter- IUCN

Firstly, Waste dumped in Andaman has been found on the coasts of Tamil Nadu. Waste from the US is found to be circulating in the pacific ocean etc.

Secondly, Wondering if the below image is that of the ocean currents? No, they are the 5 ocean plastic waste gyres in the world.

5 major plastic waste gyres in the world oceans
5 major plastic waste gyres in the world oceans

Finally, Many developed nations ship their plastic waste to underdeveloped nations to be recycled. In a recent update, the UN interfered in this transaction and gave the receiving nations of waste to reject a shipment of the containers with plastic waste. Cambodia has sent tonnes of plastic waste back to the USA and Canada after the statement from the UN.

Plastic waste shipped to Cambodia from USA and Canada
Plastic waste shipped to Cambodia from the USA and Canada

Un-managed plastic waste has severe effects on the environment

The effect of stray plastic waste on the environment is an undeniable fact. Governments and Organisations around the world are combining forces to ‘Remove the waste from the environment and keep it in the Economy’. However, these efforts have been localized with limited efforts happening globally.

The impact of the floating waste has been seen with animals’ guts filled with plastic debris or a turtle stuck in a fishnet. Additionally, there is a direct impact on the quality of soil, air, and water in the ecosystem

“When you have plastic piling up and piling up, it creates this insulation layer – it rapidly raises the temperature to a point where it is likely unsuitable for most animals,”

Dr. Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)

Recycling saves resources

Lastly, As discussed above – Plastic Waste and Recycling are a global phenomenon. The benefits of a Globally interconnected recycling scheme are beyond our understanding at this stage. However, if it helps keep the Waste out of the Environment and in the Economy – it will help save virgin resources and helps create a Circular and Sustainable future.

We believe It is time to change this narrative. But how one might ask? it is simple, through a global treaty on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Global EPR Treaty: a solution to plastic waste?

Yes, the ultimate solution for plastic waste is: Sort waste at source – Recycle – Reduce – Reuse and more. However, the waste generated globally requires a much bigger approach. A Global EPR Treat is the first step towards creating a comprehensive, worldwide, and robust approach.

As stated earlier, the global nature of plastic, plastic waste, and its impact on the environment, a Global Treaty of scheme is the next best solution for a significant outcome.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the highest governing body in the world to take steps towards reducing the effect of global actions on the environment, is set to make a decision in February 2022 – only time will tell what holds in the future.

Existing Global treaties, conventions and summits

Plastics waste management lacks a global agreement that binds all producers of waste in the world. Here are 2 of the few initiatives that address the growing concern for un-managed recyclable plastic.

Basel Convention
Basel Convention is a framework that governs the movement of hazardous waste around the world. In the Conference of Parties (COP) in 2019, governments around the world amended the convention to include plastic waste.

The legally binding framework helps in making the global trade transparent and regulated which will help create a safer environment.

The drastic rise in global plastic production calls for an urgent need for a robust waste management scheme
The drastic rise in global plastic production calls for an urgent need for a robust waste management scheme

Close the Plastic Tap Programme’ by UNCLOS
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty that establishes a framework for safeguarding marine aquatic flora and fauna. Their ‘Close the Plastic Tap Programme’, aimed at reducing ocean plastic by identifying the sources, sinks, and impacts on the environment. The program is aimed at the Mediterranean sea with a focus on North Africa.

There are other targeted programs, initiatives however there is a lack of a global scheme on waste management. The implementation of a Global EPR Treaty will act as an umbrella scheme to help initiate and direct programs starting with the ‘endangered’ ecosystems.

Recykal’s Global Presence

We strongly believe that a global initiative and a dialogue will enable many businesses and organizations to take the necessary actions towards a sustainable future.

In 2020, Team Recykal was supported by the Circulate Capital Oceans Fund, to spearhead the efforts towards digitization of waste management in India.

In 2021, Team Recykal was inducted into the World Economic Forum’s Circulars Accelerator Cohort, which is a global platform for organizations around the world to build, innovate and transform Together!
Abhay Deshpande, Founder of Recykal was Looped In by DOW to enable the discussion on waste management in India.

And more recently Anirudha Jalan, co-founder of Recykal represented Recykal at a global event on Recycling and Circular Economy.

In conclusion, We strongly believe a global effort is a solution for a sustainable, safe, and circular future for us and the years to come.

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