By 2040 plastic production is set to double, with plastic pollution expected to triple
Plastic pollution is an environmental crisis – a crisis rooted in the imbalance between the volumes of plastic that are produced and used, and the world’s ability to manage those volumes when they become waste.
The imbalance results in a significant amount of plastic ending up in the environment every year, with a devastating portion ending up in the oceans. Mismanaged plastic waste is a significant threat to global ecosystems and by extension, human well-being.
In 2023 the volume of plastic waste will overshoot the volume that waste systems can manage on July 28th.
By tracking this date we can more clearly define and understand the problem, and hold governments, businesses and individuals to account for their role in contributing to it.
We can also further support critical efforts to stop the flow of plastic into natural ecosystems and thankfully there is good news to celebrate and positive progress in this regard. Global negotiators are currently working to establish a Plastic Treaty, with a legally-binding agreement set to be in place by the end of 2024 that will reset the course of the plastic pollution crisis.
Together, we can work toward reducing plastic production and use, improving viable waste management systems, promoting sustainable alternatives, and pushing for policy changes to combat plastic pollution and protect our oceans, the environment and the well-being of future generations.
A country’s overshoot day incorporates the amount of waste generated by the population and how well the waste is managed.
The story of a country’s Plastic Overshoot Day is built upon 1) the amount of plastic the population produces and uses 2) how well used plastic is managed when it becomes waste 3) how much plastic waste the country exports 4) how much plastic waste the country imports and 5) how well imported waste is managed once it arrives in the country.
Each country contributes to a portion of the 157 days of plastic overshoot that will occur in 2023. Countries contribute in different proportions according to the total amount of plastic waste they mismanage, with this amount then translated into a number of days.
EA is a research consultancy uniting strong scientific research with meaningful analysis and actionable recommendations to empower individuals and organizations working on pressing environmental issues. A key tenet of EA’s philosophy and commitment to support collective problem-solving is transparency. Check out a detailed description about Plastic Overshoot Day in the expanded methodology.
Plastic Overshoot Day aims to offer insights into interventions that countries can use to reduce overall plastic waste and in particular, mitigate mismanaged plastic waste, therefore prolonging their overshoot date.
While recognizing that each country has unique realities related to plastic pollution – including plastic usage levels, waste management infrastructure, and relevant policies – Plastic Overshoot Day looked to establish categories so that countries could be profiled and relevant and meaningful solutions could be presented and explored.
The UN Plastic Treaty represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spark global action against plastic pollution. However, to achieve this, the treaty must be adequately scoped, negotiated, ratified, and enforced with high ambition. Anything less is simply not an option.
To this end, the following must happen:
Global plastic production must be capped and gradually reduced.
Despite current pledges and waste management capacity increases, planned production increases will lead to plastic pollution tripling by 2040. This trajectory is unacceptable, and production capacity capping is necessary to reduce plastic pollution over time.
Plastics not designed for circular use must be phased out.
Circular economy solutions, when applied at scale, can reduce annual volumes of plastic pollution by at least 80% by 2040 compared to business-as-usual.
To ensure participation from all countries, dedicated financial mechanisms and capacity-building must be in place to enable the development and implementation of national legislation and action plans.
Governments and businesses must be held accountable through mandatory disclosure and reporting.
Businesses, for instance, must shift from disclosing their input of waste (e.g., “100% of our plastics are recyclable”) to disclosing their output of waste and its fate (e.g., “27% of our plastic is mismanaged and ends up in the environment”).
Global North countries that export their waste to Global South countries must be held accountable for supporting infrastructure development in importing countries by at least the volume they export annually.
EA – Earth Action is a Swiss-based team of sustainability leaders committed to delivering innovative and actionable research and consulting services to global organizations.
Through its non-profit division, EA reinvests profits and directs talents into impactful initiatives, including Plastic Overshoot Day. In particular this initiative builds on EA’s extensive expertise and research in plastics, and specifically leverages the pioneering methodology and metrics made available in EA’s PLASTEAX database. Notably, PLASTEAX provides comprehensive polymer-specific and country-level data about plastic waste globally. Both PLASTEAX and Plastic Overshoot Day showcase EA’s commitment to transparency, raising awareness, and driving sustainable solutions to address plastic pollution, a significant global challenge.
Scope for better impact
We express our sincere gratitude to our esteemed partners for their invaluable support and unwavering dedication to the Plastic Overshoot Day initiative, exemplifying a profound commitment to combatting plastic pollution and fostering a more sustainable future.
The team behind Plastic Overshoot Day is grateful to the Global Footprint Network and their Earth Overshoot Day initiative, an inspiring example for establishing understandable benchmarks and empowering global citizens to better conceptualize the environmental challenges affecting our planet.
Thank you for supporting Plastic Overshoot Day, an initiative by EA – Earth Action, a not-for-profit organization. Your contribution will go towards further development of empowering materials that can be used by all those working towards action and dissemination of recommendations to effectively reduce plastic pollution around the globe.
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Plastic Overshoot Day recognized the importance of knowledge sharing and transparency in addressing the urgent issue of plastic pollution. As part of our commitment, we provide access to valuable content for personal, non-commercial use on social media accounts or websites.
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