Oxford researchers comment on the plastic waste crisis for Earth Day 2024

For the 2024 Earth Day, Oxford University researchers comment on the global plastic waste crisis, and the opportunities and challenges in moving to a sustainable plastics economy.

St Antony’s member and college advisor, Dr Amani Maalouf, Senior Researcher in the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:

“Land-based sources are responsible for 80% of marine litter, with 85% of it being plastic, as reported by the European Environment Agency. Dumpsites, resulting from improper waste collection and management, emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants, impacting human health and the environment. Particularly in low- and middle-income countries, open dumping and burning near urban areas pose severe health and climate risks, exacerbating the global challenge posed by the waste sector, which ranks as the world’s third-largest source of human-driven methane emissions.”

Our research has indicated that the global quantity of waste destined for uncontrolled disposal, encompassing open dumping, burning, or natural environment leakage, is expected to reach 730 million metric tonnes by 2030. We urgently need to enforce proper waste and resource management, and to have clearer geolocation data of dumpsites worldwide. Emerging technologies are offering new opportunities to achieve this: for instance, using artificial intelligence, we are developing a global asset-level database of dumpsites, as a tool for governments, policymakers, financial institutions, and the public.”

To read more from researchers at the university, visit their page here.

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