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Opinion & Analysis

Plastics are bad but they have a good side too

The recent World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia should energise and motivate us to think about plastics. The United Nations Environment Assembly has issued a resolution that urges member states to take action against marine macro and micro-plastic litter.

Environmental policy makers would wish this issue were resolved by simply banning plastics, but this resolution has ramifications far beyond the simple remedy, even at the environmental level. It is a disturbing alliance of plastics, food, water and climate change.

Marine macro plastics mainly come from discarded plastic packaging and there is plenty of this in our environments. 

Seven years from now — in 2025 — it is estimated that for every 3 kilogramme load drawn by a fisherman’s net, one kilogramme will be plastic debris. This is an existential nightmare for our hungry planet.

The UN-affiliated Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) definition of food security incorporates nutrition as conceptual component. 

Seafood, along with meat is humanity’s most popular source of protein nutrients. Plastic destroys fish habitats -the world will never achieve food security where fishermen fish more plastic than fish. 

Conversely, plastic packaging has a very positive effect on food security; food distribution becomes more hygienic when packaged in plastic and can be conserved longer.  By reducing waste, plastic packaging has therefore contributed to food security.

Environmental best practice, in line with UN’s sustainable development goals, dictate that food production and consumption be sustainable —using processes that limit green house gas emissions.

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