Remarks by Angel Gurría
9 June 2018 - Quebec, Canada
(As prepared for delivery)
The preservation of our oceans is indispensable for addressing many of the challenges facing the planet: from food security and climate change to energy provision, and even improved medical care through advanced marine biotechnology.
Yet, by mid-century, it is estimated that the ocean will have more plastic than fish by weight.
Plastics are one of the most commonplace materials on the planet and deliver significant benefits to society. Annual global plastics production reached 407 million tonnes in 2015 and production will increase four-fold by 2050 . That’s 1.6 billion tonnes per year!
This comes at an economic cost. The UN Environment Programme estimates the costs of ocean plastics to fisheries and tourism at USD 13 billion per year. Plastics are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Not to mention the as of yet unknown costs to human health.
The G7 has been leading global efforts to make our consumption and production patterns more sustainable by embracing the circular economy and promoting the “three Rs”: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Addressing the environmental impact of plastics requires efforts across the entire production chain. We need to reduce their use, substitute plastics with less harmful materials, and design reusable rather than single-use plastics.
There is a pressing need and huge potential to scale up global plastics recycling: today only 15% of plastics are recycled! This need is even greater with the recent import restrictions on plastic waste by China – previously the importer of 70% of the world’s waste - which have led to an increase stockpiles.
This is an opportunity for growth and job creation through a dynamic and innovative market for secondary plastics.
Our recently launched report on Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics shows that the crux of the issue is poorly functioning markets.
How can governments strengthen markets for recycled plastics?
We can build on ongoing initiatives. The EU has banned single-used plastics and the US and the UK have done the same with microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. France uses extended producer responsibility for packaging waste, modulating fees according to recycling criteria. Cities like Treviso (Italy), Vancouver (Canada), or Kyoto (Japan) have adopted pay-as-you-throw systems to encourage waste separation by households.
G7 countries can support the scale-up of innovations and best practices and chart a path towards a zero plastics waste world by identifying common objectives and standards on plastics management.
Increasing development assistance for waste management beyond your borders is also critical with 2 billion people lacking access to basic waste collection services.
With so many pressing issues on the G7 agenda, one can wonder: why plastics?
Because this is an area where you can lead by example and achieve concrete results that will benefit this planet and its people. The OECD stands ready to support you.