Every year, up to five trillion grocery bags
are used and, like most plastic garbage, barely any is recycled, the UN said
Tuesday as it warned that the world was stunned by waste. World Environment Day, the UN warned that the world could be awash at
present levels by the middle of the century with 12 billion tons of plastic
waste. “Our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, shaking marine life
and turning many marine areas into a plastic soup,” said UN Environment
Head Erik Solheim in New Delhi’s statement. “Plastic waste clogs rivers in
cities around the world, creating food and livestock pollution. It also finds
its way into the food chain, eaten by animals.” Most of the plastic
garbage that clogs rivers and landfills is single-use items such as straws,
bags and cutlery.
The study said that nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute were the five trillion plastic bags used each year.
“If bound together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped seven times a hour around the world.” Nearly 79 percent of the plastic ever created ended up discarded, with hardly any recycled or destroyed amid recycling and other use-control measures, the study said.
Only nine percent of the world’s nine billion tons of plastic was recycled. Only a little more—12%—was incinerated. It leaves only waste, lakes and rivers as the resting place for the plastic trash of the planet, where decomposition takes thousands of years. Plastic sewer clogging — a major problem in Delhi and slums throughout the developing world — can spread disease or wind up in animals ‘ stomachs, the UN said. Plastic was found in dead cows in India, while a whale died in Thailand after consuming waste bags. Garbage floating at sea costs $1.3 billion a year in the Asia-Pacific fisheries, shipping and tourism industries, the report says.
The UN said that bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags had been introduced by more than 60 countries. But to make any real change, it added, it needed better waste management, financial incentives to change consumer buying habits, and research into alternative materials. “We urgently need strong government leadership and intervention in order to meet the rising tide of plastics,” the report said.
Written by: Alice Copper