The UN Environment Programme’s World Environment Day (5 June) this year is hosted by India and focuses on beating plastic pollution. A global platform for public outreach that began in 1974, World Environment Day has succeeded in encouraging millions of people at local, national and international level to get involved in tackling major issues threatening the planet.
Promoting the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution, the organisers are seeking to mobilise individuals, companies and communities around the globe to tackle one of the most pressing problems: how to reduce plastic waste. This is a growing concern for governments everywhere; only in December 2017, 193 UN member countries signed a resolution to eliminate ocean plastic waste.
Plastic pollution: recycle, re-use, reduce
There are many sources of plastic waste, but plastic bags are perhaps a prime example. Between 500 billion and one trillion bags are made worldwide each year and fewer than 5% of these are recycled. Most are made of polyethylene, of which 80 million tonnes are produced worldwide annually and it can take up to a century for polyethylene to decompose.
Single-use plastic items – such as bags, cotton buds, drinking straws, lids, cups and stirrers etc. – can account for up to 95% of all plastic waste that is now polluting our seas, water systems and – at the micro-particle level, the very air we breathe. It thus threatens the wellbeing of marine and land-based wildlife as well as human populations.
Tackling plastic pollution: investors have a part to play
There are already many innovative companies and individuals active in tackling plastic waste, and these offer investors opportunities to support their efforts.
One example can be found in World Environment Day 2018 host nation, India. There, a chemistry professor has developed a process to use plastic waste to replace 15% of more expensive bitumen in the mix used to lay roads. The technique requires no significant technical knowledge or changes to existing road-laying procedures. It has already been well tested, with more than 5 000 km of ‘plastic’ roads having been laid.
BNP Paribas Asset Management’s environmental experts pay close attention to how innovations of this kind can result in major breakthroughs in environmental protection and are watching which companies will be able to benefit. We are also a co-sponsor of RI Europe, the continent’s leading sustainable business and finance conference, which is taking place in London this week.
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