How does this approach work with plastics?
A life-cycle approach to plastics considers the impacts of all activities and outcomes associated with producing and consuming plastic materials, products, and services.
This approach is key to enabling the global systemic change and collaboration that experts say are needed to curb plastic pollution. Using a life-cycle approach, we can identify the changes needed across all stages of a product’s life cycle to reduce the ubiquity of plastic pollution.
What actions can we take?
Products should be designed to be reused, recycled, and made with recycled content to limit the presence of plastics in the environment as much as possible.
Businesses can practice corporate responsibility by avoiding energy-intensive processes and switching to renewable energy. Plastics should also be free of hazardous chemicals.
Consumers can opt for reusable products to be used and reused as much as possible, ensuring they are efficiently washed and demanding that they are properly recycled. They can also play an important role in boycotting certain plastic products and advocating for businesses and governments to take stricter action on plastic use.
Governments need to be involved across all stages of plastic products’ life cycle and take actions to move to a new plastics economy, to eliminate, innovate and circulate. These include incentivizing reuse, banning unnecessary plastic packaging and products, investing in recycling infrastructure, and committing to partnerships that tackle existing plastic pollution. Raising awareness and promoting circularity can also be impactful.
What progress has been made towards adopting a circular economy for plastic?
In addition to the Global Commitment, world leaders agreed on a historic resolution to forge a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by 2024 at the resumed fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly in March.
The resolution addressed the full life cycle of plastic and established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC). The first INC meeting, to be held in Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022, will see countries begin the process of negotiating the agreement.
In conjunction with the meeting, UNEP will host a multi-stakeholder forum on 26 November to provide a platform for all stakeholders to provide input to the negotiations.
“The linear plastic economy is at the basis of the plastic pollution crisis,” says Aggarwal-Khan. “While the best solution differs by region, ultimately, following a life-cycle approach can set us on the path to circularity and combating the scourge of plastic pollution; additionally, a circular system change scenario will generate more and better jobs and bring significant economic savings.”
To learn more, please contact Llorenç Milà i Canals, UNEP’s Head of the Secretariat of the Life Cycle Initiative: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pollution & Waste
To fight the pervasive impact of pollution on society, UNEP launched #BeatPollution, a strategy for rapid, large-scale and coordinated action against air, land and water pollution. The strategy highlights the impact of pollution on climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and human health. Through science-based messaging, the campaign showcases how transitioning to a pollution-free planet is vital for future generations.
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