The rallying call for action to reduce plastic pollution and climate change is resonating across the world. As a population, we must reflect on how we got to this point and focus on solutions.
Economic progress has led to the alarming depletion of natural resources and worsening of environmental pollution problems. This is further exacerbated by the exponential human population growth which is expected to reach eight billion by 2050. Experts estimate that the human demands on our ecosystem is at least 75% more than nature can generate. This is not sustainable.
As a result, policymakers, financial institutions, businesses and individuals are reevaluating and reinventing the way they operate and how they make and use goods and services so that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.
It is argued that, the mindset of make, use and dispose’ associated with today’s linear economy significantly contributed to the resource and environmental problems we face. This economic model which relies on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy for activities such as manufacturing, continues to drain resources and produces high volumes of waste, most notably, plastic waste. Over the years, various measures have been undertaken to reduce the amount of resources and energy consumed but this has not gone far enough to ensure the continuous supply of resource stocks and, eliminate waste.
As we became increasingly aware of the environmental consequences of our actions and the limited supply of resources and energy that is not always easily obtainable, we saw a shift towards the recycling economy system of ‘make, use, recycle and dispose’. The recycling economy aims to minimize the damage of waste and implies a system where all low-value, single-use materials can be recycled effectively in the long-term. Given that recycling works with a limited range of products (such as paper, some metals and plastics), it has not had a significant impact on material usage, consumption patterns or business thinking. In addition, the process of recycling does not necessarily facilitate a better flow of resources through the economy as a whole. In fact, it can produce a large amount of pollution depending on the process as in most cases, recycling is ‘down-cycling’. One rarely recycles a product into…..