Report: Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health

The Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health report findings suggest a global cap on plastic production as a central provision developing globally binding controls addressing the harms caused by plastics. The goals of this Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health are to comprehensively examine plastics’ impacts across their life cycle on: (1) human health and well-being; (2) the global environment, especially the ocean; (3) the economy; and (4) vulnerable populations—the poor, minorities, and the world’s children. On the basis of this examination, the Commission offers science-based recommendations designed to support development of a Global Plastics Treaty, protect human health, and save lives. Top experts weigh in on the plastic crisis and solutions.

This report by the Global Commission on the Economics of Water shows what’s at stake if humanity fails to address the escalating water crisis. We are now seeing the consequences not of freak events, nor of population growth and economic development, but of having mismanaged water globally for decades. As the science and evidence show, we now face a systemic water crisis that is both local and global. Our collective actions have pushed the global water cycle out of balance for the first time in human history, wreaking increasing damage on communities everywhere. Further, countries are interconnected not only through transboundary rivers or streams of groundwater, but also through atmospheric flows of water vapour. And dangerously, we face water’s deepening connection with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, with each reinforcing the other. We will fail on climate change if we do not solve water. We will also fail on all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No person, place, economy or ecosystem will be spared. We can only fix this collectively. And if we move with urgency.

The report examines facts and perceptions about bottled water in the global context. It analyses the geography, structure, trends, and drivers of the global bottled water market. It examines the existing knowledge on the quality of bottled water, its impacts on water resources, and its role in plastic pollution. It raises the question of the bottled water industry’s contribution to the sustainable development goal on universal access to safe drinking water. The analysis considered only those types of bottled water that have little or no difference in taste from the tap water provided by regular municipal water supply. It is shown that bottled water is widely consumed in the both Global North and South although prices can be orders of magnitude higher than tap water….

The report argues that while progress toward universal access to safe drinking water for all is significantly off-track, the expansion of bottled water markets slows this progress down, distracting attention and resources from accelerated public water supply systems development. Estimates suggest that less than half of what the world pays for bottled water annually would be sufficient to ensure clean tap water access for hundreds of millions of people without it – for years. There are recent high-level initiatives that aim to scale up financing for the Sustainable Development  Goals, including water-related ones. Such initiatives are an opportunity for the bottled water sector to become an active player in this process and help accelerate the progress toward sustainable water supply, particularly in the Global South.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report for the Sixth Assessment Report was finalized in March 2023 during the Panel’s 58th Session on Climate Change, in Interlaken, Switzerland. The report brings in to sharp focus the losses and damages we are already experiencing and will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. It shows that taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world. According to scientists, there are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now.

Though they only account for 16 percent of the world’s population, high-income countries generate about 34 percent of the world’s waste. A large portion of the generated wastes are plastics, which often contain toxic chemicals.

Historically, high-income countries have exported a significant amount of plastic waste under the guise of recycling. This toxic plastic waste trade harms human health and the environment locally and globally. But current reporting systems frequently underestimate the volumes of plastic wastes that are traded globally, leading to a frequent underestimation of the plastic waste trade by researchers who generally rely on this reporting system.

A recent analysis, “Plastic Waste Trade: The Hidden Numbers,” produced by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), found that the overall plastic trade is more than 40% higher than previous estimates, and even this number fails to reflect the trade of plastics and wastes in textiles, rubber, plastic contamination of paper bales, and other sources. The real amount of plastics and plastic wastes, and of toxic chemicals contained in plastics and wastes that move globally via trade is likely to be even higher.

As plastic production increases, plastic wastes will also skyrocket. Estimates show we will produce 26 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050. We cannot manage this level of waste generation sustainably, and without global policies to reduce plastic production, there will continue to be an unequal exchange of plastic wastes from high-income countries to non-high-income countries.

Scientists find that increasing production and emissions of manmade chemical pollution (Novel Entities), including plastics, outstrips capacities for assessment and monitoring resulting in transgression of their planetary boundary. This transgression has the potential to cause severe ecosystem and human health problems at different scales, and alter Earth system processes on which human and all other life depend.