Currently, plastics are receiving worldwide attention as an environmental issue, but on the other hand, the demand for plastics as a raw material continues to increase. It has been estimated that global plastic production will increase by a further 40% over the next decade (Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, 26 December 2017).
The demonisation of plastic offers a good opportunity to reflect on how we produce, manage, consume and recycle goods, including plastic of course.
Plastic is cheap, lightweight, waterproof, etc. We see it everywhere, but over 60% of the plastic produced is discarded rather than reused and recycled (Geyer, R; Janbeck, JR; Law, K L. Science Advances , July 2017).
While it is possible to reduce the environmental impact of plastics, through more effective and comprehensive reuse and recycling, the way plastics are used makes reuse and recycling almost impossible. This is because most plastic products were never designed to be reused and/or recycled: they remain part of an economic model in which products are produced, used and thrown away, called the linear economy, an economic system in which goods are produced, used and then, at the end of their useful life, disposed of a highly problematic economic system.
In contrast, a green economy focuses on sustainability from the outset, with the maximum value of a product being extracted before it is repaired, reused or recycled, and this requires that products are designed to have minimal impact on the environment from their design, manufacture, use, reuse and/or recycling.
The benefits of a green economy for society, the planet and for businesses themselves are clear: resource productivity is maximised, allowing businesses and economies to address emerging concerns about resource security and scarcity; the environmental impacts of production and consumption are minimised; and waste, a problem for humanity and the environment, becomes a resource rather than a waste.
A true green economy requires companies not only to maximise recycling and minimise waste, but to radically redesign their products and services in a cradle-to-cradle approach. It requires intensive resource efficiency in relation to water, energy and materials, reduced packaging and high recycling rates, and it asks consumers to consider sustainability a critical factor in their purchasing decisions. Businesses should understand what they should aim for and identify the best approach.
We should start discussing the green economy concept with companies, making it clear that more recycling and less waste are just the first steps towards adopting a more circular business model. Investors can also support the development of a circular economy in several ways:
- By engaging companies to improve resource efficiency, reducing waste and maximising recycling – within their operations and throughout their supply chain
- Engaging with policymakers and industry bodies to support regulations or incentives that encourage circular production
- Investing in companies with good return prospects and demonstrating a clear commitment to the principles behind the circular economy
As with all sustainability issues affecting the global economy, the transition to a circular model will require coordinated action by consumers, governments, NGOs and businesses. But investors also have a key role to play in creating a sustainable economic future.
We should understand that the transition to a green economy requires the coordinated efforts of all economic sectors with the triple objective of improving economic welfare, reducing poverty and helping to harmonise the economy with improving the environmental status of water resources. This requires an effort to simultaneously adapt productive activities, particularly industry and agriculture, while advancing water management in cities and integrated basin and aquifer management to maintain and improve ecosystem services.
Global demand for water is constantly increasing, largely due to urban population growth. This calls for increased efficiency and sustainability in water use and management and in land and energy use, turning water efficiency into a driver for urban and rural life worldwide.
This requires several actions listed below:
- Innovative initiatives that prevent the flow of plastics marine litter.
- Innovative technologies for collecting plastics marine litter.
- Payment for environmental services, particularly those related to plastics marine litter.
- Innovative technologies for plastics production, including product life cycle.
- Water supply – Innovative initiatives to conserve and manage forests as sources of water – no plastics waste forests.
- Water supply – Improving access to water for multi-use applications – no plastics in urban water management entities.
- Water supply – Improve production of large farms and community gardens – reuse and collection of plastics at farm level – contractual recycling schemes.
- Water management improvement projects for traditional farmers and organic and biological farms – subsidy schemes.
- Water protection funds.
Dr. Enriko Ceko, External lecturer for the JUMP Team
Head of Economics and Management Department, at University College “Qiriazi”, lecturer at University College “Wisdom”, Senator of World Business Angels and Investments Forum and Lecturer at WBAF Business School, Global Entrepreneurship Department, Humanitarian Ambassador of International Peace Association for Albanian Nation, President of Conservative Academy, Executive Director of Albanian Center for Sustainable Development, Executive Director of Albanian Center for Waste Recycling.