Yes, you read that headline correctly – positive news does exist when it comes to fighting plastic pollution. It can be easy to get bogged down by the grim statistics, meaningless hyperbole and recurring excuses from governments, businesses and powerful individuals when thinking about sustainability. But awareness is growing and accountability is being demanded. And now, more than ever, it’s necessary to appreciate those positives in order to a) not go completely mad, b) to recognise the crucial impact of collective pressure, and c) to keep fighting the good fight.
On which note, here are three positive anti-plastic pollution news stories to keep your spirits up post-World Oceans Day.
Consumers are demanding better
Each year, the fashion industry uses 342 million barrels of petroleum to produce plastic-based fibres such as polyester, nylon or acrylic (this equates to 1.35% of the planet’s oil consumption). Worse still, these plastic-based fibres are responsible for 73% of microfiber pollution in Arctic waters.
But consumers are demanding better.
In a survey conducted as part of Arch & Hook’s research partnership with WIRED, 55% of UK respondents said they believe the fashion industry has a negative impact on the environment with 82% saying they think the industry must do something about it. Best yet? Two out of three people said that they'd be willing to pay more for fashion brands that are less harmful to the environment. Where consumers go, brands must follow. A good example of witnessing that sentiment in action is this year’s Love Island UK being sponsored by eBay rather than its usual fast-fashion brand. Whether you’re invested in the programme or not, there’s no denying that it’s a genuinely big cultural moment: a TV series famous for its reliance on throwaway fashion instead promoting preloved and recycled style to its millions of viewers.
The UN Environmental Assembly’s 2022 ‘End Plastic Pollution’ treaty actually matters
In March of this year, representatives from 175 nations endorsed the ‘End Plastic Pollution’ resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in Nairobi. This is genuinely significant, with an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee being established now to draft a legally-binding agreement by the end of 2024. This agreement will address diverse alternatives to the full lifecycle of plastic as well as suggest resolutions for commonly-stated obstacles, such as cost and infrastructure, by mobilising private and public finances to support change along the value chain.
The resolution proved that countries can come together in agreement when it really matters. As Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said: “Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.”
European legislation is leading the charge
An EU-wide step-by-step ban on single-use plastics was initiated in July 2021. It is relatively under-reported considering how advanced and progressive it truly is. The plan originated in December 2018 when representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU countries jointly agreed upon a directive to combat “plastic soup” (plastic in our oceans). The new legislation started last year with either the outright banning of certain single-use plastic items (such as cotton tips, straws, cutlery and polystyrene containers) or strict regulations on labelling (for example, on cigarette filters).
Further items and measures will be introduced over the next couple of years with the aim of not only a reduction in “plastic soup” but also a 3.54 million tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.
World Oceans Day was a fantastic opportunity to take stock – both of how far we have to go, but also of how far we’ve come. Collective effort matters and is creating meaningful change.
Photography by Lisa Kato
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