If companies and countries collaborate on technologies, plastic pollution can be quashed by 80% by 2040.
That’s according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which has laid out a roadmap to ‘turn off the tap’ on plastic waste.
Even if reusing and recycling became commonplace for all plastics today, the study states there would still be 100 million tonnes of single-use plastic that would need to be dealt with annually by 2040.
Shifting to a circular economy would also bring economic benefits, with the UNEP claiming that $1.2 trillion (£965bn) would be saved.
In addition to this, $3.25 trillion (£2.6tn) would be saved from stopping the impacts of air pollution, health issues and ecosystem degradation.
Although the costs of making the change are hefty, the report stresses they are still cheaper than the cost of spending if action is not taken – with a comparison of $65 billion (£52.3bn) per year for change against $113 billion (£90bn) per year for inaction.
It also warns that a five-year delay on a shift to a circular economy would lead to an increase in 80 million tonnes of plastic pollution by 2040.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “The way we produce, use and dispose of plastics is polluting ecosystems, creating risks for human health and destabilising the climate.
“If we follow this roadmap, including in negotiations on the plastic pollution deal, we can deliver major economic, social and environmental wins.”