The land and the sea face extraordinary threats.
There are species that are disappearing alarmingly. The earth is degrading and this threatens the welfare of millions of people. In addition to that the worsening of air pollution costs millions of lives every year, but we cannot forget that plastic pollution in the oceans and on land is reaching dangerous levels damaging and killing the life that lives in it.
China's current decision to ban imports of plastic and electronic waste has caused waste and recycling markets to become chaotic, exposing the magnitude of plastic pollution, which has caused an increase in the urgency to reduce and recycle many more materials.
Signals to Watch
Biodiversity at Breaking Point
The current assessments of the Earth's ecosystem present a very bleak picture. It is true that awareness of the loss of biodiversity is growing, but the implementation of solutions from companies and other organizations remains limited.
- According to the most comprehensive assessment of the health of the global ecosystem in recent decades, biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, because species are disappearing 1,000 times faster than their natural rate of extinction.
- In its Living Planet Report, WWF finds that "the explosion of human consumption" was the main cause of a massive fall in the world population of wildlife in recent decades. Since 1970, losses in vertebrate species (mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles) have averaged 60 percent.
- The levels of air pollution are reaching critical levels. The WHO estimates that 9 out of 10 people breathe air with high pollution a day and about 7 million people die every year from exposure to this pollution.
- More than 75 percent of the terrestrial area is now substantially degraded, and it is no longer that it dramatically affects the fauna and flora, but negatively affects the welfare of more than 3.2 billion people.
- The sustainability experts believe that the global community has not made much progress in SDG 14: Life Under Water and SDG 15: Life on Earth. They are among the Sustainable Development Goals that receive the least attention from companies and other organizations.
Waste and Plastic Hit Headlines
The global awareness of plastic pollution and its impact on our ecosystems continues to grow. Important global coalitions are being created to address the problem. Companies are receiving a lot of pressure from consumers to reduce plastic waste.
- Before banning the entry of plastic waste in January 2018, China imported more than two thirds of this type of waste from the world.
- The Global Commitment of the New Economy of Plastics brings together companies, government and civil society whose mission is to achieve a circular economy for the plastic. The 290 organizations that have signed the commitment represent 20 percent of all plastic containers produced worldwide.
- UNEP’s Global Plastics Platform aims to drive cross-border collaboration and learning between countries and cities.
- Marine plastic problems are gaining prominence in Asia. Circulate Capital and Ocean Conservancy announced at least $150 million of investment capital for the treatment of waste and to include recycling innovations that prevent plastic waste from entering the ocean from Asian countries.
- WWF announced a 3-year, $7.5 million No More Plastics in Ocean initiative, funded by the Norwegian government that is dedicated to promoting a global solution to avoid marine plastic pollution.
What to Expect in 2019
It is evident that global awareness about waste and plastic pollution will continue to grow, in fact, several collaborations have already been announced, but a greater effort will be needed to address the problem. The decision by China to ban imports of waste will continue to put pressure on governments and companies to seek systemic solutions on a global scale. The reality is that awareness of the loss of biodiversity compared to other issues of sustainable development has been low, an increasing number of NGOs are working to change it, with actions to which netting is adding. Public and private organizations will face growing expectations of playing a more active role in the preservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
What This Means for Business
Address plastic waste across the entire value chain
Many industries, not only those directly responsible for the majority of plastic waste (food and agriculture, retail, etc.), but also those less associated with plastic pollution (technology, pharmaceuticals, etc.) are going to be under great pressure from part of governments, customers and other interested parties to deal with plastic waste. Companies must carefully analyze their entire production or value chain to implement solutions that reduce waste and plastic pollution.
Biodiversity as a material issue
Few companies identify the elimination of biodiversity as a direct problem, but because more and more awareness of the crises of terrestrial and marine ecosystems is increasing, companies are expected to analyze their impact on biodiversity more closely.
Invest in circular solutions
Investing in circular solutions throughout the entire value chain provides one of the most effective solutions for companies to address waste problems and improve the sustainability of their operations.