The input of plastics into our environment has already reached intolerable levels and yet the production of plastics continues to increase. Plastics make our current standard of living possible in many respects. Throughout the world, used plastics are rarely recycled, although rich countries and educated populations have all the means to do so. In developing and emerging countries with mostly inadequate waste management systems, short-lived plastic products are usually disposed of directly into the environment. Sustainably financed waste management systems are rare. The creation of environmental awareness, the design of systems with adequate technology, their financing and the sustainable operation of such systems are usually at the very end of the list of priority topics for local authorities.
The solutions are known, but numerous organisational challenges and new interfaces, such as extended producer responsibility, must be implemented.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is todays leading institution on the circular economy to date and offers a wealth of information, teaching materials and best practice examples. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an association of internationally active companies such as BASF, Borealis or TOMRA working in the life cycle of plastics, is implementing its first unique projects such as the STOP project in Indonesia. In Germany, the Prevent Waste Alliance is developing first initiatives together with companies and civil society. But without structural changes in developing and emerging countries and changed attitudes of all stakeholders, the goals will hardly be achievable. The elimination of environmental pollution with plastic is a global problem whose solution will cost billions of euros.
Appropriate analyses of waste flows, awareness raising among citizens, entrepreneurs and politicians, the design of adequate systems for different income and settlement structures, the training of engineers, technicians, municipal employees and staff of legislative and regulatory institutions must be established or intensified in many countries.