The think piece provides policy options to reduce marine plastic litter and achieve the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, which voluntarily commits G20 countries to “reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050 through a comprehensive life-cycle approach”.

    The report

      Policy Options to Eliminate Additional Marine Plastic Litter by 2050 under the G20 Osaka Blue Ocean Vision

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      The annual discharge of plastic into the ocean is estimated to be 11 million tonnes. New modelling by SYSTEMIQ and The Pew Trusts shows that under business as usual conditions, by 2040 municipal solid plastic waste is set to double, plastic leakage to the ocean is set to nearly triple and plastic stock in the ocean is set to quadruple. Modelling indicates that current government and industry commitments will only have reduced marine plastic litter by 7% in 2040 compared to business as usual. Globally, national plastics policies are rare and tend to focus on banning or taxing individual plastic items rather than focusing on systemic change of the plastics economy. The current policy mix will not deliver the changes needed to reduce additional marine plastic litter to zero. However, through an ambitious combination of interventions using known technology and approaches marine plastic litter entering the ocean can be reduced by 82% compared to business as usual by 2040 (SYSTEMIQ and The Pew Charitable Trusts 2020).

      This IRP ‘think piece’ was commissioned by the G20, to qualitatively consider possible policy options to achieve the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, which voluntarily commits G20 countries to “reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050 through a comprehensive life-cycle approach”, thereby ensuring that by 2050, the net volume of plastic entering the ocean is zero. In this endeavor, the think piece shows the marine plastic litter trends relevant to 2050, summarizes the current plastic policy landscape and explores policy upstream and downstream interventions to achieve the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. Based on the analysis presented, it concludes with a set of policy messages to deliver on the Vision and to transition to the systemic changes needed to the plastic economy. These include: 

      • 1. To deliver the necessary changes for the plastics economy, the G20 should accelerate its work on marine plastic litter as a priority. Now is not the time to lose focus. Action now will prevent the need to do more later.

      • 2. Greater coordination of marine plastic litter reduction policies is urgently needed. Instead of isolated actions and bans, coordinated reform of regulatory frameworks, business models, and funding mechanisms, such as establishment of a platform to coordinate and share of analysis of existing successful techniques, is needed.

      • 3. A step change in international and national policy ambition is necessary to achieve the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. The Osaka Blue Ocean Vision will only be achieved by adopting more progressive policy targets, shaped globally but delivered nationally.

      • 4. Actions that are known to reduce marine plastic litter should be encouraged, shared and scaled up immediately. These include moving from linear to circular plastic production and consumption by designing out waste, incentivising reuse, and exploiting market-based instruments. These will generate ‘quick wins’ to inspire further policy action and provide a context that encourages innovation.

      • 5. Supporting innovation to transition to a circular plastics economy is essential to achieving the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. While many technical solutions are known and can be initiated today, these are insufficient to deliver the ambitious net-zero target. New approaches and innovations are needed.

      • 6. There is a significant knowledge gap on the effectiveness of marine plastic litter policies. An urgent and independent program to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of plastics policies is required in order to identify the most effective solutions in different national and regional contexts.

      • 7. The international trade in plastic waste should be regulated to protect people and nature. Transboundary movement of waste plastics to countries with insufficient waste management infrastructure could result in significant plastic leakage to the natural environment. The Basel Convention has made an important initial step towards making global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.

      • 8. COVID-19 recovery stimulus packages have the potential to support the delivery of the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. Measures to reduce marine plastic litter will generate jobs in Greentech and Bluetech sectors and support the delivery of the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision.

      Recommended citation: IRP (2021). Policy options to eliminate additional marine plastic litter by 2050 under the G20 Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. Fletcher, S., Roberts, K.P., Shiran, Y., Virdin, J., Brown, C., Buzzi, E., Alcolea, I.C., Henderson, L., Laubinger, F., Milà i Canals, L., Salam, S., Schmuck, S.A., Veiga, J.M., Winton, S., Youngblood, K.M. Report of the International Resource Panel. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi, Kenya.

       

      Did you know?

      11 million tonnes of plastic are discharged into the ocean annually.

      Bo Eide Flickr

      Did you know?

      Under business as usual conditions, by 2040, plastic leakage to the ocean is set to nearly triple 

       

      Did you know?

      Current government and industry commitments will only reduce marine plastic litter by 7% in 2040 compared to business as usual

       

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