Beat plastic pollution with ISO standards
Plastic is an important material in our economy and daily lives. It has multiple functions that can help tackle a number of the challenges facing our society, be it packaging that ensures food safety and reduces food waste, light and innovate materials that lower fuel consumption, or bio-compatible plastics in medicine that save human lives. On the other side, there is an urgent need to address the environmental problems that today cast a shadow over the use of end products. The million tonnes of plastic litter that find their way into our oceans are one of the most visible and alarming signs of these problems.
"Beat Plastic Pollution", the theme of this year's World Environment Day (5 June), is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. ISO standards can help us achieve this goal by increasing efficiency and reducing unnecessary waste around the world.
How ISO can help?
Examples of deliverables that can help include ISO 17422 on guidance for the inclusion of environmental considerations in standards, ISO 15270 on the recovery and recycling of plastics waste and a future technical report - ISO/TR 21960 - on knowledge and methodologies for plastics in the environment. In addition, a set of standards on the carbon and environmental footprint of biobased plastics (ISO 16620 and ISO 22526) will help businesses reduce their environmental impact.
ISO standards for the marine environment can also save precious resources. ISO 18830, ISO 19679 and the future ISO 22404 will help organizations understand degradation and performance over the product's lifetime - invaluable for ensuring that a given material is the optimum choice. ISO is also developing ISO 22403 and ISO 22766 to determine the recycling and reuse of plastics, and prevent their leaching into the environment. Regarding plastic leakage into our oceans, standardization solutions could lead to a significant environmental benefit.
As Dr Eric Bischof, Chair of the ISO subcommittee responsible for plastics and the environment, explains: "I firmly believe that standardization can foster increased resource efficiency in general, help reduce waste leakage and support resource-efficient circular economy solutions. A strong involvement of interested parties is however a prerequisite to develop smart, broadly accepted standards that really make a difference."
World Environment Day, which is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.
UNEP participates in various ISO technical committees and has been involved in the development of some of these standards.