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CHAPTER 3:
BARRIERS TO ACTION
MANY OF THE NECESSARY SOLUTIONS ARE ALREADY
KNOWN, BUT GLOBALLY WE HAVE FAILED TO
IMPLEMENT THEM FOR SEVERAL REASONS
Organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
(EMF), World Economic Forum (WEF), and the
Pew Charitable Trusts have outlined the necessary
lifecycle approach to tackle the plastic crisis. Plastic
imposes large costs and risks across the whole lifecycle, which
means that efforts need to tackle all stages of the lifecycle. In
response to this challenge, there has been a growing focus on
systems change towards plastic circularity that considers the
complete product lifecycle, including all stages before and
after plastic reaches the consumer.164
This approach aims to
keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment by
creating a " closed loop " system, rather than a system in which
plastic is used once and then discarded. The principles of this
approach include:
● ELIMINATE the plastics we don't need, not just
removing the straws and carrier bags, but rapidly scaling
innovative new delivery models that deliver products
to customers without packaging or by using reusable
packaging.
● Rapidly design all plastic items to be reusable, recyclable
or compostable. It is also crucial to fund the necessary
infrastructure, rapidly increasing our ability to collect and
CIRCULATE these items.
● INNOVATE at speed and scale towards new business
models, product design, materials, technologies and
collection systems to accelerate the transition to a circular
economy.
A number of comprehensive interventions which can
support the transition to a circular economy have
already been identified. For example, the Pew Charitable
Trusts has proposed nine systemic interventions in line with
circular economy principles:165
1. Reduce growth in plastic production and consumption
2. Substitute plastic with paper and compostable materials
3. Design products and packaging for recycling
4. Expand waste collection rates in the middle-/low-income
countries
5. Double mechanical recycling capacity globally
6. Develop plastic-to-plastic conversion
7. Build facilities to dispose the plastic that cannot be
recycled economically
8. Reduce plastic waste exports by 90%
9. Roll out known solutions for four microplastic sources166
A circular economy approach has the potential to
reduce the costs and tackle the negative impacts
of the plastics system. Research has shown that this
approach could reduce the annual volume of plastic entering
the oceans by 80% and GHG emissions from plastic by
25%,167
while promoting job creation and better working
conditions. By one estimate, a circular economy approach
could create 700,000 quality jobs across the plastic value
chain by 2040.168
An increase in plastic material value
through design for recycling can also lead to significant
improvements in waste pickers' working conditions and
earnings.
However, progress on the implementation of these
approaches has been slow because of misplaced
incentives for both government and industry. The
systems overhaul needed to tackle the plastic crisis can be
highly costly and complicated, particularly for countries that
lack sophisticated waste management systems. A substantial
shift of investment is needed away from virgin plastic towards
25

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