Roundtable highlights nuclear solutions to tackle plastic pollution in North, Central, South America and the Caribbean

Roundtable highlights nuclear solutions to tackle plastic pollution in North, Central, South America and the Caribbean



Plastic pollution is a problem that transcends national borders as one of the most pressing global environmental challenges today that directly threatens sustainable development. Across the world, a million plastic water bottles are bought every minute and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are thrown away every year. Almost 70 percent of all plastics produced so far are waste today and only 9 percent of them have been recycled. It is predicted that the ocean will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025 and that there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

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Plastic pollution is a problem that transcends national borders as one of the most pressing global environmental challenges today that directly threatens sustainable development. Across the world, a million plastic water bottles are bought every minute and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are thrown away every year. Almost 70 percent of all plastics produced so far are waste today and only 9 percent of them have been recycled. It is predicted that the ocean will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025 and that there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

“We are all affected by this problem of plastic pollution as a human society. This problem is now reaching alarming proportions, and that means that we have to deal with it differently within the international community and stakeholders – we need a proportionate response to the problem, ”said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi during a yesterday Virtual round table with ministers, institute directors, high-ranking decision-makers and partners in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The meeting focused on identifying innovative solutions and partnerships to tackle plastic pollution. “The IAEA wants to rise to this challenge and we recognize and look for others to work with us,” he said.

Participants discussed the challenges facing increasing plastic pollution, focusing on key political and socio-economic issues, as well as regulatory frameworks and initiatives to strengthen partnerships to facilitate global action. As in other parts of the world, landfills in America are often full of plastic waste and pose an environmental threat to ecosystems such as rivers, groundwater and the ocean. Incinerating plastic waste can also release toxic gases.

At the meeting, experts from the IAEA presented NUclear TEChnology for Controling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics), which aims to help countries integrate nuclear technologies into their efforts to cope with the challenges of plastic pollution. NUTEC Plastics highlights the available nuclear technologies for recycling plastic waste using radiation technology and marine surveillance of microplastics using isotope tracing techniques, aiming to facilitate scientifically supported decisions about measures and guidelines for the containment and disposal of plastics.

“Action against plastic pollution at all levels will only work if the full range of available technological solutions is used – including nuclear technologies that complement conventional approaches,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA deputy director general and head of the nuclear science and applications division. “The challenge is simply too great to forego innovative technologies that could add real value to ongoing efforts and initiatives. It is precisely for this reason that the IAEA developed NUTEC Plastics. Nuclear technologies and techniques offer advantages that are not always known, but they can accelerate and improve results. “

NUTEC Plastics supports countries on two fronts: with isotope tracer techniques for the monitoring and evaluation of marine microplastics and their effects and irradiation technology for innovations in the plastic life cycle, including recycling. “Radiation technology can improve plastic recycling, and isotope tracking techniques can help monitor and analyze the behavior and fate of microplastics in the seas and oceans,” said Hua Liu, IAEA deputy director general and head of technical cooperation, who made concluding remarks . “Through NUTEC Plastics, the IAEA will contribute to the global response to plastic pollution and to a sustainable solution.”

The round table brought together over 400 participants from 36 countries. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, addressed the meeting, and senior officials from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and the United States provided the ongoing national and regional Efforts.

At the event, the United States announced that it would provide NUTEC Plastics with $ 1 million as part of its longstanding partnership with the IAEA to address global challenges. “We are strengthening this partnership with NUTEC Plastics to combat climate change and promote sustainable development,” said Frank Rose, deputy chief administrator of the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). While the NNSA is primarily focused on nuclear safety and non-proliferation, it supports projects that support the use of electron beam technology to advance plastics recycling, he said. “There is a connection between our core tasks and the fight against climate change. By working together to unlock the full potential of advanced nuclear technology, we move closer to our goals of a healthier planet and help nations achieve their sustainable development goals. “

The round table is the second in a series of round tables on NUTEC Plastics organized by the IAEA. The first took place in May 2021 with experts and high-level representatives from the Asia-Pacific region. The next virtual NUTEC Plastics Roundtable is for the Africa region and will take place on September 2, 2021.

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