• We have just 10 years left to tackle the climate crisis, according to the UN.
  • More countries are introducing laws to help end practices harmful to the environment.
  • Plastic and pollution are the top targets for lawmakers.

Around the world, a raft of new legislation to help protect the environment has just come into force.

Last year, the UN warned that if the damage to the climate is not reversed by 2030 it will be too late. The 2020s could be the decade that makes the difference, but only if the right action is taken to cut carbon emissions.

By focusing on some of the more visible, day-to-day problems, like pollution and plastic, newly enacted laws are helping to raise awareness as well as make a lasting difference. Here are five examples being introduced this year.

1. Tax rises for high-polluting cars in France

France is getting tough on vehicle emissions. High-polluting cars, such as SUVs, are now subject to higher levies. Until now, owners have had to pay an additional $14,000 on vehicles that breach emissions limits of 184g/km CO2.

That has now risen to $22,240. As well as the benefits to the planet, the French finance ministry estimates the increase will help generate $56 million a year, according to Bloomberg.

2. A focus on plastic in Thailand

Thailand’s government has announced the use of three types of plastic – microbeads, cap seals and oxo-degradable plastics – will be banned by the end of the year.

And an initiative to stop the use of plastic bags has been joined by 43 retailers, including department stores and convenience store networks. They have agreed to stop giving out free plastic bags, which contribute to the almost 2 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year by consumers in the country.

plastic pollution environment
This is how much plastic ends up in the ocean.
Image: World Economic Forum

3. Single-use slashed in France

France has banned a range of items made from single-use plastic, including plates, cups, and cotton buds, and drinks bottles when used in school canteens and catering services. This time next year, cutlery and straws will go the same way, along with styrofoam cups and containers, drink stirrers, and confetti.

Currently, there are exemptions in place covering compostable products made from at least 50% organic material. Cutlery used in hospitals and prisons, or on planes and trains, is also exempt – although all these exemptions are due to end in July 2021.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Contact us to join the partnership.

4. Bags bans across the US

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, single-use plastic bags less than 2.25 mm thick have been banned, with thicker bags or a paper alternative being offered instead. There are some exceptions, including restaurants, bakeries, and dry cleaning services.

The state of Oregon has enacted similar rules, with retail stores and restaurants no longer allowed to provide single-use checkout bags. Under the new law, most premises must charge 5 cents for paper bags and reusable plastic ones more than 4 mm thick.

What is Loop and how does it work?

Loop is a revolutionary new consumption model that produces zero waste by using durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused -- sometimes more than 100 times. A brainchild of TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky, Loop aims to eliminate plastic pollution by introducing a new way for consumers to purchase, enjoy and recycle their favourite products.

As of May 2019, Loop has launched successful pilots in Paris, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with future pilots planned for London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Toronto.

To see Loop in action, watch the video below:

To learn more about how this initiative came about and how the Forum's platform helped it grow, check out this impact story.

Contact us to find out how you can join us in our fight to end plastic pollution.

In New York, meanwhile, a statewide ban on most types of single-use plastic bag comes into force in March. The Department of Environmental Conservation is taking aim at the 23 billion plastic bags used across the state each year, and has launched the Bring Your Own Bag New York campaign to encourage shoppers to get into the habit of using their own bags.

5. Toxic sunscreen put in the shade in Palau

The tiny Pacific nation of Palau is home to a rich marine ecosystem that includes around 400 species of hard coral and 300 species of soft coral, and 1,400 species of reef fish. In 1998, it was hit by coral bleaching following changes in sea temperatures caused by a band of warm water around the equatorial Pacific area, known as an El Niño. More coral bleaching occurred in 2010.

Now, Palau has banned certain kinds of sunscreen as part of a series of measures to protect its environment. Oxybenzone is commonly used in many sunscreens as it absorbs ultraviolet light. But it can harm coral reefs and other marine life, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and can cause bleaching and leave the coral less resilient to climate change.