Earth reaches Plastic Overshoot Day


plastic bottles

Today (28 July) has been announced as “Global Plastic Overshoot Day”, the date when the amount of plastic produced worldwide surpasses all combined international efforts to manage it effectively.

The date has been announced internationally for the first time this year. Before 28 July, the research and report from Swiss-based research consultancy Earth Action showed plastic waste has been well-managed this year, which the report defines as being collected and then either recycled, incinerated, or deposited in a sanitary landfill.

However, as the report finds that the global production of short-life plastic is expected to reach 159 million tonnes in 2023, the international capacity for managing plastics without leakage will no longer meet the demand for the rest of the year.

Julien Boucher, Founder and CEO at Earth Action, commented: “Today should be a pivotal moment in the global plastic waste crisis. We all have a crucial role to play in this crisis. Now what is required is extensive and ambitious interventions from global governments and corporations, that can lead the change towards sustainable production practices.

“Without this, the Plastic Overshoot Day date will only be brought forward every year. If we can measure and report our carbon footprints, why can’t we do the same for plastic?”

Today should be a pivotal moment in the global plastic waste crisis.

Earth Actions says as a result 43% of all plastic waste is projected to be mismanaged at the end of its life. This includes 420,000 tonnes of chemical additives released into waterways. The report also highlights that plastic waste “disproportionately impacts” the countries in the Global South.  

Countries such as Bangladesh, Ecuador, India and South Africa are some of the countries in the Global South defined by EA Earth action as “waste sponges” – a country that has low consumption of plastic yet a high level of plastic pollution arising from it through plastic imports.

Collectively, the “waste sponge” countries account for 66.86 days out of the total 157 days of plastic overshoot projected to occur in 2023, Earth Action says.

Earth Action is now urging all governments, corporations and individuals to become aware of their “plastic footprint” and take “decisive actions” that align the amount of waste introduced to the market with existing waste management capacities.

The report includes 10 country archetypes which profile every country in the world, which aims to enable each to have tailored policy recommendations to their unique circumstance.

We cannot simply keep producing plastic, much of it unnecessary.

Commenting on the report, John Duncan, Global Initiative Lead at WWF, said: “We cannot simply keep producing plastic, much of it unnecessary, without addressing the significant costs that the plastic pollution crisis imposes on the planet.

“For too long, the inequalities inherent in the current plastics system have kept the plastic pollution problem out-of-sight and out-of-mind for many, with the social, economic, and ecological burden being borne by lower-income countries and poorer communities.

“While improving global waste management capabilities will help, we need to focus our efforts on upstream reduction and design of the system, which is where the biggest opportunities lie.”

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