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Pollution from plastic waste in particular is expected to double, especially by 2030, affecting health, the economy, biodiversity and climate, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Program (PNUMA). Recycling is not enough today.
The UNEP report qualifies the planet’s current pollution caused by plastics as a “global crisis” and proposes that swift and concerted action be taken to tackle the problem because “the need to reduce global plastic and plastic waste production. The environment.”
According to the report, about 7 billion to 9.2 billion tons of plastic waste collected between 1950 and 2017 turned into plastic waste, three-quarters of which was discarded and filled with land, was part of uncontrolled waste streams. Environment including the sea.
Plastic is part of the largest, most damaging and persistent marine debris, accounting for at least 85% of total marine debris, according to the document, “From Pollution to Solution: Global Evaluation of Marine Junk and Plastic Pollution”.
Experts point out that plastic pollution is a growing threat not only to aquatic ecosystems, but to all ecosystems, from the material to the sea and in the meanwhile the way it travels.
One week before the start of the Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, a UNEP report warns that plastics are also a climate problem, as their production in 2015 is estimated to be related to 1.7 gigatons of CO2 production. 15% of the global carbon budget will be tripled to 6.5 gigatons by 2050.
“Current pollution is ubiquitous and persistent. Although the world has achieved significant economic growth in recent decades, it is associated with high levels of pollution, which have had significant effects on human health and ecosystems, as well as on the functioning of some key processes in land systems.”
This document demonstrates that 85% of the waste that goes into the ocean reflects plastic and warns that by 2040 the amount of these substances flowing into the ocean will almost triple. This means about 50 kilograms of plastic per meter of beach worldwide.
As a result, all marine species, from plankton and mollusks to birds, turtles and mammals, are at risk of poisoning, behavioral disorders, starvation and suffocation. Coral reefs, swamps and even sea urchins suffocate with plastic debris, preventing them from receiving oxygen and light.
Humans are also affected by the pollution caused by plastic waste in water sources, which can cause hormonal changes, developmental disorders, reproductive abnormalities and cancer. Plastic is also injected through seafood, beverages and common salt, but it can penetrate the skin and inhale when stopped in the air.
“Risks to human health and well-being refer to the burning of plastic waste, ingestion of plastic contaminated shells, exposure to pathogenic bacteria carried in it, and concern products in coastal waters (soluble separation from insoluble components).
Precisely, “Chemicals associated with plastics are more likely to infiltrate the marine environment because these chemicals have certain anxious substances or endocrine-degrading properties.”
According to scientists, microplastics can enter the human body through inhalation and absorption through the skin and accumulate in organs including the placenta.
The extraction of microplastics by humans through seafood poses a threat to coastal and tribal communities, where marine species are the main source of food.
The relationship between plastic-related chemicals in the marine environment and exposure to human health is not yet clear. However, these chemicals are associated with some serious health risks, especially for women.
According to the report, marine plastics have a far-reaching impact on the community and human well-being because they can prevent them from going to beaches and beaches and enjoy the benefits of physical activity, social interaction and development. General physical and mental health.
Mental health can be affected by the knowledge that attractive sea animals such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and many other seabirds are endangered. These animals are culturally important to some communities.
Images and descriptions of plastic pieces on the stomachs of whales and seabirds, as they often appear in the media, can have strong emotional implications, according to a document released by UNEP.
In terms of economic cost, he says, marine litter and plastic pollution will also affect the global economy. The costs of plastic pollution in other activities such as tourism, fishing, aquaculture and sanitation are estimated at $ 6 to $ 19 billion in 2018.
The annual financial risk to companies is projected to be around $ 100 billion by 2040 if governments are to offset waste management costs at the expected levels.
By comparison, the global plastic market by 2020 is estimated at about $ 580 billion, while the monetary value of marine natural capital losses is estimated at $ 250 billion per year.
The many and layered hazards posed by marine debris and plastics make them amplifying threats. They can co-exist with other pressures such as climate change and over-exploitation of marine resources, which cause more damage than occurring in isolation, UNEP warns.
Habitat changes in key coastal ecosystems caused by the direct impact of marine litter and plastics affect local food production and damage coastal structures, leading to far-reaching and unpredictable consequences such as loss of resistance to extreme events and climate change.
Microplastics can enter the ocean through the rupture of large plastic materials, leaks from landfills, sludge from sewage treatment systems, airborne particles (e.g., wear and tear tires and other plastic-containing materials), runoff from agriculture, shipwreck and accidental loss. Loss of cargo at sea.
Extreme events such as floods, hurricanes and tsunamis can dump significant amounts of debris from coastal areas into the oceans and pile up debris on riverbanks, beaches and estuaries. Global global plastic production is projected to reach 34 billion tons between 1950 and 2050.
In addition, the risks of marine debris and plastics should be assessed against the accumulated hazards. More than half of the floating plastics in some seawalls are made in the 1990s and earlier.
The movement of debris and plastics in the ocean is controlled by beaches, currents, waves and wind, while floating plastics are called oceans, while sinking plastic sinks. Deep sea, river deltas, mud belts and swamps.
According to the report, the number of hotspots with long-term and large-scale risks to the functioning of ecosystems and human health is increasing. The main hub is the Mediterranean Sea, where large amounts of marine debris and plastic accumulate due to its closed nature, endangering millions of people.
Similarly, the Arctic Ocean, with its primitive nature and damage to indigenous peoples and identities caused by plastic ingestion in seafood chains, and in the East and Southeast Asia region, are considerably uncontrolled by large human populations that rely heavily on the oceans.
The authors of the report reject the possibility of recycling this crisis and warn of harmful alternatives to single-use products such as bio-based or biodegradable plastics.
As far as recycling is concerned, the low recycling rate for plastics is a big problem, which is currently less than 10%, the report said.
“Millions of tons of plastic waste are lost to the environment, or sometimes sent thousands of kilometers to places where it is usually burned or thrown away. Says further.
The rapidly expanding research area is on biodegradable and biodegradable plastics. Field studies show that when these plastics are out of industrial or controlled composting conditions, they can last for many years without any signs of biodegradability in some marine environments.
Therefore, “in the environment, these types of plastics can pose the same risks as conventional plastics,” the report says.
The report also looks at significant market failures such as lower prices against recycled materials for virgin fossil fuel-based raw materials; Small transparent efforts for proper and informal management of plastic waste and lack of consensus on global solutions.
(With information from UN News)