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A Look at COP27 from a Plastics Perspective

The 27th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hosted by the Government of Egypt, aimed to take action toward achieving the climate goals defined under the Paris Agreement. With plastics being responsible for an estimated 5% of CO2 emissions, we took a look at COP27 from a plastics perspective - including circular economy and plastic credits as potential solutions to the plastic crisis as well as art and hands-on activism:


SOLUTIONS TO THE PLASTIC CRISIS

In a special COP27 event, prominent representatives from the UN network tackled the links between plastic waste and carbon emissions. Aside from the need for trade policies to support the shift to plastic substitutes, the event highlighted the importance of multilateral agreements to stop the illegal traffic of plastic waste. “Dealing with plastic pollution serves as an opportunity for societies to shift to circular economies, thereby addressing all three planetary crises: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss,” said Susan Gardner, UNEP’s director of ecosystems.


By 2050, the world will have produced over 40 billion tonnes of plastic, the vast majority of it will live in the ocean or our environment for centuries. To combat this crisis, and reach plastic neutrality, plastic credits can be a key tool. Already, companies are finding ways to cut their plastic pollution massively while also providing social benefits.


The Global Plastics Policy Centre at the University of Portsmouth, which advises the United Nations, G20 and World Bank has called for a zero target to be set for new plastic pollution by 2040. The call was published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment and pushed the UN to set meaningful, ambitious targets to avoid ambiguity on what it means to reduce global plastic pollution as they head into talks for a Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution.


ART & ACTIVISM

The world's largest plastic waste pyramid was unveiled in Egypt. Made using the equivalent of 1M plastic water bottles, the pyramid marks the beginning of a movement called the "100YR CLEANUP", an initiative led by zero-waste company Zero Co and mission-led wine The Hidden Sea that seeks to fund large-scale clean-ups for the next 100 years and drive accountability for the single-use plastic problem.


South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi is repurposing plastic for use in his artwork, and minimizing pollution. The 56-year-old is raising awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics, which end up in oceans and landfills. Bloomberg Philanthropies handpicked Buthelezi to have his artwork displayed at COP27, which he describes as a career highlight.


Stories are once again circulating about Senegal’s “Plastic Man,” Modou Fall, who wears a “uniform” of plastic debris and goes around to different areas to discuss the plastic waste problem in Senegal. Modeled after the traditional Senegalese “Kankurang,” a figure considered a protector against bad spirits and in charge of teaching communal values, Fall educates on the health and environmental risks associated with plastic pollution.


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