The problem of plastic pollution has a great impact on the environment, but government agencies in many countries have become seriously interested in the problem relatively recently. Eliminating the negative impact of plastic requires many resources and restrictions that some countries are not yet ready to accept. However, various mechanisms can be implemented relatively quickly and cost-effectively. This paper proposes three possible partial solutions to this problem with the help of the legislature.
Plastic has become one of the main problems of recent times. Modern environmental cleanup strategies are trying to mitigate the adverse effects of this process but cannot withstand the growing amount of plastic. Virtually every plastic produced on the planet still exists in some form. The strength, ease of use, and low cost of the material made it once ideal for manufacturing. Currently, about 400 million tons of plastic are produced annually worldwide (MacLeod et al., 2021). Plastic has become popular since it is designed for long service life. However, the problem of its decomposition has become a significant environmental problem, which has only recently begun to be addressed at the state and international levels. The most feasible solutions to this issue lie in the plane of the influence of the federal authorities of the countries, which can introduce or are already introducing appropriate pollution control laws.
Prohibitions and Taxes
Environmental movements worldwide promote consumption reduction, resource stewardship, and waste recycling. However, a 2021 study found that only 20% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled (MacLeod et al., 2021). States began to regulate the activities of plastic industries relatively recently when the scale of the environmental problem had already become unacceptably large. Primarily since 2016-2017, many countries have begun to ban non-biodegradable plastic production or limit the production of some quantitative indicators, such as Monaco (Knoblauch & Mederake, 2021). In addition, among such measures, the introduction of duties and systems of fines on the production, and circulation of plastic bags, as in Peru, are distinguished (Knoblauch & Mederake, 2021). The transition to environmentally friendly materials is not yet possible globally due to various economic reasons; in this regard, government agencies are looking for other, lighter levers of pressure.
In countries where a total ban on the production of plastic products has not yet been introduced, labeling and certification schemes are operating. They track the movement of plastic packaging or products for further processing or provide anti-pollution mechanisms (Burrows et al., 2022). In addition, the authorities can cultivate the opposite effect: stimulate the market with government orders for environmental materials, and provide economic support during transitional periods for companies that refuse plastic. According to statistics, only 25% of environmentally friendly enterprises worldwide receive government support in the form of government orders, subsidies, or tax breaks (Knoblauch & Mederake, 2021). Given such obstacles and trends in environmental responsibility, companies should reduce the production of plastic, but impressive global results have not yet been achieved.
Reducing the consumption of plastics is beneficial but sometimes difficult to achieve due to unsafe food storage and lack of convenience. However, it is possible to avoid unnecessary packaging, such as double packaging, or opt for sustainable alternatives. The growing demand for plastic-free products will, in turn, force companies to redesign their products. Here, government agencies can impose partial bans on non-essential products. Moreover, the pressure levers in this area influence the end consumer. Raising consumer awareness of the impact of their choices on the environment is a long-term strategy. It can be provided through formal education: in schools, and universities, or through informal education – news, and videos (MacLeod et al., 2021). However, the responsibility of the population is only the elimination a symptom of an existing problem. As a counterargument, the root cause and economic consequences of the issue are given: it is necessary first to find materials that will become an adequate alternative, and also to find resources to establish production facilities for their processing and production, and only then involve the population in training.
Stimulating Demand for Recycled Material
Companies must strive to reduce waste and be held accountable for the waste generated by their products under Extended Producer Responsibility. It consists of compliance with recycling standards, signing contracts with processors, and paying an environmental fee. It is recommended to stimulate producer responsibility with subsidies to processors and companies that use recycled materials and by awarding bonuses. Improving the waste collection and disposal system is a long-term strategy that states should consider; however, this approach takes time. Many states find a solution in delivering waste to other regions while investing in creating waste processing plants in these countries, for example, from the United States to China or Vietnam (Pervez et al., 2021). Another thing is that there is practically no feedback in this chain – recycled plastic in other countries is practically not used by American companies.
On the one hand, the use of recycled materials in these countries, where there is such a possibility, is a highly positive signal for these same countries. However, the negative side of the issue can be cited as a counterargument. Countries that supply plastic for recycling to other regions often continue to produce non-degradable plastic at home without putting the creation of their recycling system in the primary vector of development. As part of the decisions of global alliances such as the Pacific Alliance, the European Union, the G7, and the G20, more detailed and faster strategies are needed to implement the plastics circular life cycle program (Knoblauch & Mederake, 2021). The mechanisms of this decision lie in stimulating demand for recycled material, both from the side of purchasing raw materials in regions with existing processing plants and creating recycling systems that require enormous resource costs. However, the environmental damage from plastics will, in any case, be incomparable to them.
Many states have finally considered the problem of plastic pollution on the planet from a severe point of view. However, many of them have not yet taken decisive action, and the production of non-degradable plastic is still ongoing. In this paper, the leading solutions that are most feasible shortly to combat plastic pollution have been considered. The main lever of pressure on production and the population here is governments and inter-ethnic unions, in which to introduce effective mechanisms of influence.
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Knoblauch, D., & Mederake, L. (2021). Government policies combatting plastic pollution. Current Opinion in Toxicology, 28, 87-96.
MacLeod, M., Arp, H. P. H., Tekman, M. B., & Jahnke, A. (2021). The global threat from plastic pollution. Science, 373(6550), 61-65.
Pervez, R., Wang, Y., Jattak, Z., Zahir, M., & Mahmood, Q. (2021). The distribution and composition of litter on the Aoshan Beach Qingdao, China. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 25(4), 1-11.