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UNEP’s US$65 Billion Plan to End Plastic Pollution 

A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report explores how the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy. The ‘Turning off the Tap’ report presents a systems change scenario that aims to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It analyses the opportunities and impacts of this systems change scenario, which involves reducing problematic and unnecessary plastic use, promoting reuse, recycling, and diversifying plastic alternatives. The world currently produces 430 million metric tonnes of plastic annually, with over two-thirds becoming waste after a single use. If business continues as usual, plastic production is projected to triple by 2060. The report highlights the social, economic, and environmental costs associated with plastic pollution, estimating annual costs between US$300-600 billion and potential litigation liabilities exceeding US$20 billion. However, transitioning to a new plastics economy through a systems change approach could substantially reduce plastic pollution by 2040. The investment costs required for this transition are lower than the current trajectory, amounting to US$65 billion per year through 2040. But timely action is crucial, said UNEP, as a five-year delay could result in an additional 80 million metric tonnes of plastic pollution. By embracing a new plastics economy, significant benefits can be achieved, including job creation, improved livelihoods, reduced damage to human health and the environment, and substantial cost savings, the report said. Harmonised international action and cooperation are essential for the success of this systems change, it added, with aligned measures and obligations across nations and value chains.  

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