From the Arctic tundra to the top of Mount Everest to inside the human gut, plastics are quite literally everywhere.

Escalating plastic production, exclusively out of fossil fuels, is a dirty not-so-little secret — it rose from 2 million tons in 1950 to nearly 400 million tons in 2020. The consequences, from overflowing landfills to marine life death to negative human health impacts, are widely recognized, but action to address both the production and clean up the pollution still lags.

At GreenBiz’s annual conference on the circular economy, Circularity 22 this week in Atlanta, plastics experts and practitioners took the stage to discuss the ins and outs of the solutions to the plastics problem — and how to build the momentum to find success.

So what will it take? A systems-wide approach that redesigns how we use plastic in products and packaging, plus investment and behavior change toward recycling and disposal, all while centering people and planet. It's no easy task, but with the right tools, approaches and proof points, it’s all doable, according to experts speaking during a plenary session about how to move from ambition to accountability.

  1. Step 1: Get the right tools for the job Understanding what’s happening at key places along the plastic values chain (chemical refinement, manufacturing, consumer products, disposal/recycling) — and what’s not happening — is key for designing and implementing mitigation measures at these levels.
  2. Step 2: Work with communities Another problem with the plastics waste crisis — like climate change — is that while its reach is global, its impacts are often seen at national and even local levels. Indeed, most solutions to tackle the waste, from plastics recycling to pollution, exist at these levels.
  3. Step 3: Learn from success stories around the world Successful plastic waste management projects can provide blueprints for future projects and proof points to catalyze greater action.

Read the full article about addressing plastic waste by Holly Secon at GreenBiz.