The 7th Volume of the Global Solutions Initiative INTERSECTING editorial project gathers the original contributions from 40 authors from across the globe. The editors have prioritized voices from a new generation of experts, especially from emerging countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Together, they propose a systematic approach based upon three pillars, #transitions, #frameworks, #responsibility, to address the planetary plastics crisis.
Plastics are a global success story that turned into one of the greatest contemporary environmental challenges. Polymer plastic production increased from 1,5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Yet, less than 10% of all the plastic ever made has been recycled. Almost 80% of the billions of tons of plastics produced in the past decades have accumulated in landfills or in nature, often in the oceans.
In 2022, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United-Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the editors of INTERSECTING argue that the plastics crisis can only be addressed if a circular economy becomes the norm. The basic 4Rs-reduce, reuse, repair, recycle principles – should give way to more systemic transformations to bend the linear economy, in a world of interconnected value chains.
Successful #transition depends on global markets and new initiatives arise from networks and the private sector, such as the Global Commitment and Plastics Pact. Climate Diplomacy and international cooperation are essential to avoid disconnections between manufacturing and consuming nations and to promote social justice. Tools such as the EU Taxonomy Regulation are the cornerstone of global talks connecting plastics, circular economy, and carbon. Taking voluntary action is key as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has reversed the development of the circular economy from over 9% in 2018 to barely 8% in 2020 and disrupted supply chains.
The future depends on a better articulation between multiple policy #frameworks from regional cooperation, national partnerships, to better informed local action. The 7th volume of INTERSECTING brings several concrete examples from different regions of the world that highlight a collective potential for change: the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), Indonesia’s national Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP), capacity building and innovation programs by networks such as ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability or the ‘regional circulating and ecological spheres’ (R-CES) in Japan.
More than 50% of the world’s plastic production comes from 20 companies only. Technological and industrial processes and managerial decisions are behind any circular economy steps, from turning complex plastics polymers into easily recyclable monomers to implementing sustainable packaging management. Extending and enforcing producers’ responsibility (EPR) should become part of integrated, upstream circular economy and waste management policies, as illustrated by concrete examples from the Middle East, Costa Rica, Vietnam, or Nigeria.
In response to the complexity and universality of the plastics crisis, 78 member states of the United Nations have endorsed a proposal for an international treaty on plastics in 2021. The circular economy is also a mounting priority in the G20/T20, with unprecedented levels of cooperation among global think tanks. As part of its presidency of the G7 in 2022, Germany seeks to prioritize circularity and ecology in global supply and value chains.
Moving from 10% to 20% of circularity in the global economy by 2030 could yield a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030, argue the editors of INTERSECTING.
The new INTERSECTING Series ‘Bending the Linear Economy’ is made possible by the Circular Economy Solutions Dialogue (2022-23), a joint initiative by the Global Solutions Initiative and GIZ GmbH.
INTERSECTING is edited by New Dialogues Publisher
Guest editors of INTERSECTING Volume 7 ‘On plastics’: Nicolas J.A. BUCHOUD, Alexander CHARALAMBOUS, Martin KOCHHAN, Markus LÜCKE, Konstantinos KARAMPOURNIOTIS
Editorial Board of INTERSECTING: Nicolas J.A. BUCHOUD, Milindo CHAKRABARTI, Gunnar HARTMANN, Nella Sri HENDRIYETTY, Holger KUHLE, Riatu MARIATUL QIBTHIYYAH