Düsseldorf, Germany — The world must stop producing and consuming more and more plastic if the issue of marine litter is to be addressed effectively, warned a leading German conservation group.
Cornelius Detloff, of the Naturschuzbund Deutschland (NABU), said manufacturers have to “stop the exponential growth of plastics” and seek alternative materials if the tide of ocean waste was going to be reduced.
In a presentation at K 2016 in Düsseldorf, Detloff acknowledged his call would not see him “leave the event decked in flowers.”
Nevertheless, industry and the world's consumers have to cut back in the amount of plastic that was being produced, used and subsequently discarded if the amount of plastics expected to enter the environment, and particularly the world's seas, to be reined in, he said.
The worst-case scenario of plastic waste entering the oceans would rise tenfold from current estimates of between 4.8 million metric tons and 12.7 million metric tons by 2025, he added.
The problem of marine waste was often worst in countries where there was poor recycling, with Asia and the west coast of Africa often blighted by it. Detloff said he was “shocked” by the scale and impact of marine litter during a recent two-week fact-finding visit to Ghana.
NABU wants to see better resource efficiency; plastics production using more environmentally friendly material, such as bioplastics; items made with durability and recyclability in mind; scrapping single-use items such as plastic retail bags and encouraging multiuse goods; better scientific research; binding objectives on countries and producers; and increased international cooperation.
“The plastics industry has to join in a dialogue and discussion on how to tackle this problem,” Detloff said.
“Industry needs to strengthen its social and ecological responsibilities, and when going into new countries for the first time, it needs to help those markets develop effective waste management strategies,” he said.
PlasticsEurope's Germany Director General Rüdiger Baunemann, speaking after Detloff, said he “totally disagreed” with NABU's call for the production of plastic products to be drastically reduced.
“Plastic gives us the opportunities to meet the challenges facing society, from light-weighting to health care, construction and climate change.
“It can contribute to tackle the very things that cause problems for the world.
“And PlasticsEurope works with all stakeholders to support the elimination of litter as best we can,” he said.