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Plastics

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The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability

Abstract

Unsustainable plastic production, use, and mismanagement dominates the growing global waste problem. Plastic waste mismanagement threatens environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Plastic waste leakage into the environment has resulted in widespread marine, freshwater, terrestrial, and atmospheric impacts globally. Plastics derived from fossil fuels account for 6% of global oil consumption resulting in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during every step of the plastic life cycle, from production to waste disposal, contributing to climate change. Plastic production, distribution, and widespread consumer demand have placed enormous pressure on Earth’s limited ecological resources. Currently, governments and industry are implementing solutions and establishing ambitious targets to reduce plastic waste and improve sustainability, yet plastic waste generation is still outpacing these new policies and regulations. As consumer awareness of pervasive plastic pollution continues to increase, so does personal motivation, government, and industry action to seek innovative solutions to redesign for end-of-life plastic packaging to reduce plastic waste and improve plastic recyclability. This chapter highlights why unsustainable global plastic production, use, and mismanagement has resulted in more than 75% of the plastic ever produced now existing as waste. This chapter also provides an outlook for innovation and alternative plastic materials to help advance national and global plastic waste management strategies for a global sustainable transition towards zero-plastic waste.

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Correspondence to Tony R. Walker .

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Walker, T.R., McGuinty, E. (2023). Plastics. In: Brinkmann, R. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-01949-4_55

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