The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently staged a new business model where 80 per cent of plastic pollution can be eliminated by 2040 and reduce 4.5 trillion investment cost.
It released a report titled “Turning of the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy” on Tuesday detailing the model, less than two weeks before the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) meeting in Paris.
Experts predict that a global ban on single use plastic may come earlier in 2030 than the other plastic products. The single use plastic consumption is increasing rapidly in Bangladesh.
The country produces 1.06 million tonne of single-use plastic waste annually where sachets or mini packs consist of 1.92 million tonne, according to the Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO.
Stakeholders urged authorities concerned to be aware and start taking the plastic pollution seriously amid the shifting global movement.
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee’s second session will take place May 29-June 2 aiming for a complete elimination of plastic pollution. After this negotiation a treaty will be signed in 2025 in this regard.
It has been estimated that the market size of Bangladeshi plastic industries is near about $3 billion, of which $2.2 billion is domestic and $0.8 billion is exported, according to a 2021 report of Korean Society of Environmental Engineers. The market is expected to increase in the future,
However, according to the UNEP model, by 2040, global plastic export will be reduced to 0.6 million tonne, which was expected to be 5.6 million tonne annually. Around 90 per cent export will be blocked or dropped.
Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of ESDO, said, “This report will influence the negotiation of what will happen (at the INC 2), including agreement on a full ban on plastic pollution and setting up a timeframe. And, single use plastic can be banned in 2030. 72 countries already agreed to ban single use plastic.
“Our businesses must throw away the use of single-use plastic from their minds and will be forced to shift to alternative materials that do not produce chemical pollution as soon as possible.
“The demand for banning single-use plastic and not recycling plastics with high levels of chemicals. So, unless our producers and traders become aware faster, they will not be able to cope up with the changing business model.”
In the near future, most countries will not import multi-layered plastic products and exports will fall.
However, Bangladeshi plastic producers and exporters are not worried about the changing situation, saying they are aware about it and the upcoming global plastic treaty. They complained that the government is not investing adequate money in plastic waste management infrastructure.
“We are aware of the changing situation. We are giving emphasis on the circular economy and have advised the Department of Environment to ban three single-use products,” said Shamim Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA).
According to various researches, single-use plastic is not recyclable. Currently, a maximum of 36 per cent other plastic is recycled in Bangladesh.
“The government investment in waste management is low and the enforcement of the existing laws is very lax as the government failed to ban polythene shopping bags despite having a complete legal tool in hand,” said Shamim.
He believes no changes will come overnight.
“We have contacts with similar associations across the globe and Asia through different forums. They have briefed their government delegations set to attend in the upcoming INC session,” said.
According to the UNEP report, in a circular economy, reuse will reduce plastic pollution by 30 per cent and recycling will reduce 20 per cent while sustainable alternatives will reduce it by 17 per cent.
It also said, 30 per cent of short-lived plastic products are avoidable and can be reduced.
Industry insiders said about 5,000 companies, mostly small, are producing different types of plastic products in Bangladesh. But the waste collection system in the country is still not modernised.
New model to save investment cost
If the UNEP’s business model of circular economy is adopted, it can globally save $4.5 trillion investment costs.
According to the report, around $1.3 trillion direct investment will be saved in operations and management costs and recycling revenues. A further $3.3 trillion will be saved from externalities including health and environmental costs.
However, even with the new approach, a significant volume of plastics cannot be made circular in the next 10 to 20 years and will require disposal solutions to prevent pollution.
The main challenge will be the competition of low-price virgin plastic and higher cost recycling, said UNEP.
The just transition approach, leaving no one behind was taken into account in preparing the report, also offered solutions.
The UNEP report said the circular economy will create 700,000 additional employments by 2040 and improve livelihoods for millions of workers in informal settings.