Plastic pollution has gotten out of hand. There is regular news about a country-sized island of plastic floating about in the ocean, landfills are drowning in the stuff, and wildlife both in the water and on land are often tangled up in plastics, requiring human intervention to save them.
As such, there has been a recent push by individuals to reduce their own plastic usage. This has resulted in people buying reusable shopping bags, reusable straws, and often eschewing products in grocery stores that are packaged in plastic. Now the United Nations has decided to get involved as well, according to the BBC.
A U.N. Environment Assembly in Nairobi has resulted in a total of 170 countries pledging to reduce their plastic use in the next decade. Reducing plastics includes getting rid of items like disposable shopping bags, produce bags, and straws, among other things.
While a 10-year plan is better than nothing, it was only proposed after the initial plan to cut out single-use plastics by 2025 was vetoed by a number of countries.
“It’s hard to find one solution for all member states,” Siim Kiisler, the U.N. assembly president, said. “The environment is at a turning point. We don’t need verbose documents, we need concrete commitments.”
Global action against plastic pollution comes into sharp focus at #UNEA4, with the launch of 3 reports, each addressing different aspects of, and solutions for, the growing impact of plastic waste on the world’s marine environments. #BeatPlasticPollution https://t.co/8Bu4Ezk3Cs— UN Environment (@UNEnvironment) March 13, 2019
One of the countries opposed to cutting plastic by 2025 instead of 2030 was the U.S., which has drawn major criticism for their decision on that vote. Not only that, but according to The Guardian, they also opposed making the resolution legally binding, meaning that this pledge can easily be broken without consequence.
Although it is an ambitious goal to rid the world of single-use plastics within the next six years, many environmental groups feel that waiting 10 years would be 10 years too long for the planet.
“Despite sweeping agreement by the majority of countries that urgent, ambitious and global action is needed to address plastic across its lifecycle, from production to use to disposal, a small minority led by the United States blocked ambitious text and delayed negotiations,” a statement by environmental groups including Break Free From Plastic, IPEN, Plastic Change, No Waste Louisiana, and Coare said following the agreement announcement.
Even countries like India were on board with much stricter measures to reduce plastic use by 2025 than the U.S. was.
Other decisions that were made at the meeting include a resolution to produce less food waste, and to “consult with indigenous populations over the development of new regulations.”