Thanks to its industry-driven proliferation, plastic is now a defining characteristic of the human epoch, the Anthropocene. It’s altered food chains, covered the oceans in gigantic garbage patches, and has even entered the rock cycle. Bacteria have evolved to digest PET, a common type.
Food cycles and ecologies are beginning to suffer and collapse thanks to the accidental ingestion of plastics, particularly microplastics. Eventually, plenty of this plastic is inadvertently eaten by seafood-consuming people, which means that we’re actively contaminating ourselves.
This clearly doesn’t need to happen. Bioplastic, which has the same properties but is made from biodegradable substances, could replace 90 percent of all plastics that exist today, while also drawing down billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions – plastic is made from fossil fuel byproducts, after all.
Resolutions like this one are clearly welcome, and in some ways, it echoes the Paris agreement. Although actually cutting emissions is not legally binding, just as this pushback against plastic isn’t, it doesn’t mean massive international agreements aren’t effective.
Just look at the Montreal Protocol, which advocated for a worldwide ban on chemicals that depleted the ozone layer. It’s been seen as a roaring success, and by 2050, the hole will likely be completely repaired.
The potential for this resolution to have a major effect on the use of plastics across the planet is yet to be seen, but the resistance of the newly isolationist America does present some problems. Although the world can move on without the help of the White House, as the most powerful country in the world, its assistance would provide some much-needed symbolic and practical help.