The environment agency of the United Nations released a report June 1 pushing replacements for single-use plastics, ahead of this year's World Environment Day June 5 and its theme of "beat plastic pollution."
UN Environment, which in early 2017 declared a "war on ocean plastic," said the 127-page report is designed to assess alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-based plastics and help to "break the global addiction to single-use plastics."
"Making the switch from disposable plastic to sustainable alternatives is an investment in the long-term future of our environment," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. "The world needs to embrace solutions other than single-use, throwaway plastic."
The agency said that it's "neither possible nor desirable to remove all plastics from society" and it said in some applications, like in the medical field, plastics are essential.
But it argued that with increasing amounts of plastics headed into the oceans, it wanted to spotlight rethinking their use in applications like packaging.
"The report is intended to encourage society to question our current use of plastics and consider the adoption of alternative approaches, especially for those items which can be characterized as designed for single use, such as packaging," said Peter Kershaw, lead author of the report. "Packaging and other single-use items form a large proportion of the plastic litter leaking to the ocean."
The report comes as the G7 meeting in Canada June 8-9 is also expected to address plastics marine pollution. The Canadian government has said it wants to use its G7 presidency this year to elevate the issue among the group, which is made up of large industrial democracies.
As well, World Environment Day this year, on June 5, has a theme of targeting plastic pollution, with events planned around the globe.
The UN report offers 25 case studies of both conventional alternatives like paper and cotton and newer biopolymers and polymeric and other materials made from sources like algae, fungi and plants.
The report also said there are "major business and job opportunities" in developing new materials.