Turkey receivies nearly a quarter of the plastic waste exported by EU nations in 2019. Photo: VCG
The torrent of man-made chemical and plastic waste worldwide has massively exceeded limits safe for humanity or the planet, and production caps are urgently needed, scientists have concluded for the first time.
There are an estimated 350,000 different manufactured chemicals on the market and large volumes of them end up in the environment.
“The impacts that we’re starting to see today are large enough to be impacting crucial functions of planet Earth and its systems,” Bethanie Carney Almroth, co-author of a new study told AFP in an interview.
The study, by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, comes ahead of a UN meeting in Nairobi at the end of February on tackling plastic pollution “from source to sea,” UN Environment Programme head Inger Andersen said on Monday.
Chemicals and plastics are affecting biodiversity, piling additional stress on already stressed ecosystems.
Pesticides kill living organisms indiscriminately and plastics are ingested by living things.
While greater efforts are needed to prevent these substances from being released into the environment, scientists are now pushing for more drastic solutions, such as production caps.
Recycling has so far yielded only mediocre results.
Less than 10 percent of the world’s plastic is currently recycled, even as production has doubled to 367 million tons since 2000.
Today, the total weight of plastic on Earth is now four times the biomass of all living animals, according to recent studies.
“What we’re trying to say is that maybe we have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Maybe we can’t tolerate more,” the Sweden-based researcher said in a statement.
For several years, the Stockholm Resilience Centre has been conducting studies on “planetary boundaries” in nine areas that influence Earth’s stability, such as greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater usage and the ozone layer.
The aim is to determine if mankind is in a “safe operating space” or if the limits are being exceeded and threaten the future of the planet.