Less than a 10th of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, and governments should consider banning or taxing single-use bags or food containers to stem a tide of pollution, a UN report said on Tuesday, UN World Environment Day.
“The scourge of plastic has reached every corner of the Earth,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, wrote in the report, compiled with the Indian government and launched along with a slogan: “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.”
“Only 9 percent of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled,” the report said. “Most ends up in landfills, dumps or in the environment.”
China is the biggest source of plastic packaging waste, ahead of the European Union and the United States. Per capita, however, the United States produces most, ahead of Japan and the EU.
But there are signs of action to limit plastic pollution, which harms life in the oceans, contaminates soils and releases toxic chemicals when burnt.
“Targeted levies and bans – where properly planned and enforced – have been among the most effective strategies to limit overuse of disposable plastic products,” the report said.