2022 Plastic Policy Progress
Let's ring in the New Year with an ECOlunchbox celebration and recap of positive steps taken in 2022 to combat plastic pollution
Over the past year, public policy development relating to plastic pollution has made significant strides at the global level.
Overall in 2022, the progress made in public policy development related to plastic pollution in recent years is cause for celebration. While there is still much work to be done to address this global problem, governments, organizations, and individuals worldwide are putting in the effort that is starting to pay off.
Governments worldwide recognize that plastic pollution has devastating impacts on the environment and are finally making moves to address the issue before we get even closer to the point of no return.
We must continue to highlight that this is more than just a consumer-level problem and continue pushing for accountability at a corporate and government level worldwide. One thing is clear: if we continue to work together, we can create a future where plastic pollution is a thing of the past. Join us on Instagram to share your plastic pollution success stories.
So, how did progress shape up in 2022 regarding putting the brakes on plastic pollution? Read our year in review recap for specific strides that have been taken to combat the global plastic pollution crisis.
Focusing on Reducing
One of the most significant developments in the fight against plastic pollution is the adoption of plastic reduction targets and bans on certain single-use plastic items. Many countries, like the United States, Canada, India, and the European Union, have implemented bans on plastic bags, straws, and cutlery, to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and the environment.
Governments are also implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, which require manufacturers to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products. These programs have successfully increased plastic product recycling and are reducing the amount of plastic waste in landfills. In addition, the adoption of circular economy policies is also making a significant impact. These policies aim to keep resources in use for as long as possible, maximizing their value and minimizing waste, like using recycled plastic to produce new products, helping to offset plastic pollution further.
Being Aware is the First Step
We can only fix the problem if we know what the problem is. International organizations such as the United Nations have played a crucial role in raising awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution and promoting the development of global policies to address the issue. The United Nations has explicitly sponsored numerous conferences and initiatives focused on reducing plastic pollution, including the Clean Seas campaign and the Global Plastic Action Partnership.
It Starts At Home
In 2022, the United States made significant progress in developing public policies related to plastic pollution.
The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act includes several key provisions, joining the ban on single-use plastic bags, straws, and cutlery and requiring manufacturers to participate in EPR programs. In addition, other U.S. policies are in play, like the National Ocean Plastic Reduction Act, passed in 2022, which establishes a set of targets for reducing plastic waste in the oceans, or the Zero Waste Plan, aiming to divert 90% of waste from landfills by 2030.
Overall, the progress in developing public policies throughout 2022 represents a significant step forward in the fight against plastic pollution from one of the world's largest contributors and will help create a more sustainable future for all.
Who Stands to Benefit?
The reduction of plastic waste can only be good for everyone worldwide. But people living in impoverished communities are currently suffering the worst. Plastic pollution can have serious health consequences as it contaminates water sources and contributes to the spread of disease—furthermore, burning plastic waste results in poor air quality and increased respiratory problems for these communities.
Marine mammals are also significantly impacted by plastic pollution. Ingestion of plastic debris has left many whales, dolphins and other marine animals endangered. That debris can block digestive tracts, leading to malnutrition and death. Plastic pollution also harms marine ecosystems, leading to far-reaching consequences for the entire food chain.
Changing Policies to Change the World
Our governments must address plastic pollution with increasing urgency, not just for the environment's health but also for the health and well-being of people and animals. Developing public policies to reduce plastic waste and promote circular plastic-free products is essential in this direction. Some of the specific efforts made in 2022 include:
- U.S. National Parks are slated to phase out plastic water bottles, cups, straws, cutlery, and other single-use plastics by 2032. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland issued the order supporting alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable or biodegradable materials or 100 percent recycled materials.
- The United Nations also began negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty with an agreement to end plastic pollution but a split on whether goals and efforts should be global and mandatory or voluntary and country-led. More than 2,000 delegates from 160 countries met in Uruguay for the first of five sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to craft the first legally binding agreement on plastic pollution by the end of 2024.
- A newly launched investigation by the California Department of Justice will take a hard look at the plastics industry. California Attorney General Bonta announced a first-of-its-kind investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis.
- The film and television industry is one of the biggest polluters, so the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is forming a Green Council to address their footprint.
- Through their Filtered Not Bottled campaign, the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) is encouraging the U.S. government to rethink its lead pipe replacement program, avoid replacing toxic lead pipes with plastic, and provide communities with filtered (not bottled) water throughout the process.
- Los Angeles and San Diego have put landmark plastic-reduction ordinances in place.
- When you now search using Yelp to search for restaurants, you'll see "Bring your own container allowed" (ECOlunchbox containers are great for takeout!) alongside other eco-friendly identifiers, like compostable containers available or plastic-free packaging.
- The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) represented the voices of millions and set a mandate for negotiating a legally binding treaty addressing the life cycle of plastics from material extraction to waste disposal.
Thank you, Plastic Pollution Coalition, for advocating plastic pollution policies and providing information in this list.
Photo by Sören Funk