With the plastic waste crisis reaching fever pitch and refusing to be ignored any longer, what can we do as a global citizen?
Plastic waste can now be found in the sea, mountains, and the stomach of wild animals, and it is all thanks to our irresponsible use and inefficient management of plastic products. Therefore, the solution couldn’t be any clearer: humans must change their way of life as soon as possible.
Also, it is not the duty of any specific organization or country to step up to the plate and deal with this problem; the global community must come together and collectively find ways to reverse the plastic waste crisis.
Currently, many sectors appear to have become more aware of how pressing the issue is and are actively lending their hands to the cause. For instance, many world-class manufacturers are making their products and packaging friendly to the environment and launching campaigns against single-use plastics, which seems the be the most effective first aid at this point. Likewise, a host of international organizations have also implemented measures and regulations to alleviate the plastic crisis. For example:
- In 2019, 187 countries, including Thailand, ratified a treaty to regulate the movement of plastic waste both on land and by sea.
- The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that each signatory country must work to stop mixed plastic waste. Under this control measure, which homes in on the waste importer, only mixes of certain types of plastics, namely PE, PP, and PET, will be exempted.
- Waste importing countries in Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and India, have stiffened their regulations on waste importing. In particular, Thailand has announced that it will regulate imports of electronic waste and reduce imports of plastic waste in two years. The roadmap drawn up by the Department of Industry is as follows.
Year 1 (2019): The plastic debris import quota will be limited to 70,000 tons (50,000 tons for PET and 20,000 for other plastic types.) The quota will be made up of no less than 30 of domestic plastic waste.
Year 2 (2020): The quota will be limited to 40,000 tons, with no less than 60% accounted for by domestic plastic waste.
Year 3 (2021): Plastic waste imports will be banned.
- Various environmental organizations, including WWF, Greenpeace, Change, and Avaaz, are seeking to secure one million signatures for their petition calling the United Nations and the European Union to review the convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes in order to stop western countries from “dumping” their waste in developing countries and encouraging them to recycle actively.
- Conservationists have also been supporting research and development on recycling and projects related to the circular economy, which proposes the “make-use-return” model, promoting the maximization and recovery of resources to extend their useful life. This model has been growing more popular as the world is grappling with resource scarcity and environmental impacts that seem to affect humans more and more.
Manufacturers can apply this model right to the very first step of their production. For example, they can choose more efficient materials to reduce resource consumption or opt for materials that are more readily recyclable. In addition, better production management can also cut down waste or even allow them to be reused (Renewability). Even after their products have hit the market, manufacturers and brand owners can still encourage end-users to use the products to the fullest and correctly sort any resulting waste, so that it can be recovered and remain useful.
It is time for manufacturers to integrate the circular economy model into their businesses or organizations and play an active part in maximizing the efficiency of plastic waste management in order to save our environment in a tangible way.