Why It Matters
One Planet Perspective
As we work towards a solution for the plastic waste crisis, we must do it in a way that does not negatively impact other critical issues that are affecting the environment, including the climate, forests and food waste. For example, when companies substitute paper products for plastics, we must ensure that the paper comes from responsibly managed forests, particularly those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Otherwise, we’re just shifting the environmental cost to another part of nature.
WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report found that global biodiversity declined by 60% between 1974 and 2014. Over 800 species are negatively impacted by plastic waste, but we’re only just starting to understand the effects of plastics on our ecosystems.
Plastic pollution has far-reaching implications for local communities by posing a public health risk, decreasing fish stock, and contributing to climate change. Communities in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of plastic pollution. In areas with poor infrastructure, polluted coastlines where plastic accumulates can create a favorable breeding environment for disease-carrying organisms such as insects and rodents. And, plastic production represents up to 8% of global petrol use – on par with the aviation industry – and incinerating plastic waste pollutes our air all while contributing to climate change.
Fixing the Broken Plastic System
Only 9% of plastic waste in the US is recycled each year. When plastic ends up in nature, this waste affects the fishery, maritime, and tourism industries, causing an estimated $8 billion in economic losses annually.
Our current waste management system and recycling infrastructure cannot properly manage the volume of virgin plastic constantly entering the system. When we throw out plastic instead of recapturing and recycling it, we miss an important opportunity to recapture the value of the resources already used for the production of our plastics. There is more than $2 billion worth of plastic material sitting in the United States’ landfills at this very moment. WWF is advocating for a holistic solution that curbs plastic pollution and its many associated consequences.