It’s Time to Clean Up Our Act – Not the Beach

In Plastics in Nature
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Plastic in nature is like that semi-permanent coffee stain you can’t remove from your favourite white shirt no matter how hard you try.

The Prime Minister of Norway yesterday called for a “legally binding global treaty on plastic pollution”, supported by more countries like Sweden and Grenada. If that sounds like a mouthful to you, you’re not alone.

After all what does international legislation, which can take years and rounds of negotiations by governments to pass, have to do with the man on the street?

Yet, 1.5 million people around the world (including thousands in Singapore!) support a WWF petition for this global treaty.  

Here is why this treaty on plastic pollution matters to people in Singapore – and what it really means for you.

1) No more pointing fingers

For too long we have been shifting the blame for plastic pollution between countries, businesses and communities. The governments of China and Southeast Asia have been returning container loads of plastic waste back to the countries where they came from – Europe, the U.S. and Canada included. Meanwhile, three million plastic bags and bottles are sold around the world every 60 seconds, worsening our plastic waste problem.

More developing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are rejecting scrap exports and sending them back to origin countries.
© Shutterstock / kwanchai.c / WWF

What it means: With a global treaty in place, countries will be required – by international law – to be responsible for the plastic they create. This will go a long way to fixing the broken system that has created the massive crisis in our oceans today.

2) The best beach clean-up

Last year, nearly 800,000 people collectively removed more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around the world, according to the International Coastal Cleanup. In Singapore, the last beach clean-up we did brought in two tonnes of plastic waste in less than a day!

What it means: But we cannot keep cleaning our beaches without addressing plastic pollution at source: OURSELVES. 80% of plastic pollution in our oceans comes from land. By mandating governments to act, businesses to comply and consumers to be a part of the solution, a global treaty would have an impact far bigger than any beach clean-up – one where we clean up our act.   

3) You are not alone in caring about plastic

Already refusing plastic straws? Fab. Bringing reusable items everywhere? Awesome. As you do your part to reduce your use of plastics on a daily basis, it would be comforting to know that you are not alone in doing so.

In a bid to rally the community to reduce plastic use, our first-ever ‘Pay with Plastic’ event saw us through more than 10,000 plastic bottles and 454 customers who added their voice to call for a legally binding global treaty.

What it means: With a global agreement, there will be plans at the highest levels to ensure governments put money where their mouth is: through investments that change how plastics are produced, used and disposed of. This includes making sure that businesses do their part as well!

This is not the first time that a world leader has called for global action on plastic pollution. There has been a growing crescendo of support by leaders to act on the global plastic crisis. This year alone, these voices have come from the G20 (Group of Twenty) nations, as well as regional groups from the Pacific states, the Caribbean and even Southeast Asia.

So what’s next?

Our use of plastics is expected to double over the next 20 years – a scary thought given that microplastics from plastic pollution have infiltrated our air, food and water sources. We have to act before that happens. This takes real work.

World leaders, ministers, mayors and policy makers need to know that we want to see action that fixes plastic pollution once and for all. Add your voice for a legally binding global treaty (1.5 million others and counting have done it) at yourplasticdiet.org/sg to be part of the movement to #StopPlasticPollution. 

A timeline of regional commitments in support of a global treaty to tackle the plastic crisis:

March 2019

Over 50 countries supported the call for a global treaty at the UN Environment Assembly.

March 2019

300,000 people supported WWF’s online petition for a global treaty. 


April 2019

The Nordic governments became the first to call for a global treaty.

May 2019

More than 180 countries (excluding the U.S) agreed to restrict global plastic waste trade at the Basel Convention.

June 2019

Leaders of the G20 countries agreed to bring marine plastic pollution to zero by 2050.

June 2019

Leaders at the 34th ASEAN Summit – Singapore included – committed to regional cooperation on plastic pollution.

August 2019

The Pacific states echoed the call for a global treaty to curb plastic pollution at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting.

October 2019

1.5 million people around the world supported WWF’s online petition for a global treaty. 

October 2019

Norway, Sweden and Grenada committed to support a global binding agreement to stop marine plastic pollution at the Our Ocean conference. 

Help us call for a legally binding global treaty at yourplasticdiet.org and use the hashtags #uselessplastic and #plasticdiet.

Main image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

If you like reading this, see our timeline of how we helped transform the business industry in 18 months, why it may be too late if we leave it to our kids to fix the planet and the stranded whale with a staggering 5.9kg of plastic in its stomach.

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