Legal Solutions to Reduce the Environmental Burdens of Disposables: A Comparison of EU, Canadian and Swiss Law

This thesis by Christine Bühler at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, compares the legal solutions regulating disposables in the European Union (EU), Canada, and Switzerland. It analyzes whether they explicitly intend or implicitly are capable of reducing environmental burdens caused by producing, using, and disposing of such goods. The research findings illustrate that numerous existing legal solutions are beneficial for preventing environmental harm, yet, many of them should be revised in order to have an even greater impact.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines key reuse models for businesses and governments to engage with in efforts to address the plastic crisis. Key reuse models covered in the report include: refilling at home, refilling on the go, returning from home, and returning on the go. The report includes dozens of examples of reuse across sectors spanning home and personal care, transport packaging, grocery, beverages, cup solutions, and takeaway and ready meals.

In the journal Nature, journalist Tosin Thompson interviews experts making strong recommendations for the global Plastics Treaty addressing pollution, and recycling, social and health implications.

Sowing a Plastic Planet: How Microplastics in Agrochemicals Are Affecting Our Soils, Our Food, and Our Future exposes the growing use of microplastics in agrochemical products, the industry’s promotion of this practice, and its threats to human health and the environment. It concludes that, in the face of known risks and the significant probability that plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides only add to existing harm from toxic chemicals and microplastic, their production and use should be banned.

In the journal Science, experts on plastic pollution come together to strongly recommend that the global Plastics Treaty “cover all issues of plastics chemicals as an inseparable part” of the plastic crisis. In their paper, they outline the complex chemistry of plastics, and advocate for redefinition of plastic additives as the toxic chemicals they are, and plastics themselves as complex chemical mixtures.

As public expectations for corporate responsibility grow and an increasing number of businesses pledge to reduce plastic use, researchers publishing in the journal One Earth on November 18 detail how the world’s largest and most powerful companies’ focus on recycling rather than virgin plastic reduction makes their commitments less meaningful.

The study focused on the top 300 Fortune 500 companies and found that 72% had made a commitment to reducing plastic pollution. “Most of the commitments emphasize plastic recycling and commonly target general plastics,” write the authors, led by Zoie Taylor Diana, an environmental researcher at the Duke University Marine Laboratory. “They are important, but partial, solutions if we are to comprehensively address the plastic pollution problem.”