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UNEP spearheads US$42M circularity project in Latin America and the Caribbean


UNEP spearheads US$42M circularity project in Latin America and the Caribbean

The governments of Colombia, Jamaica and Panama are launching a US$42 million project to jointly combat plastic pollution by mainstreaming circularity at city-level.

Source: PackagingInsights

The “Reduce marine plastics and plastic pollution in Latin American and the Caribbean cites through a circular economy approach” project is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and support from the Cartagena Convention Secretariat. 

Embracing circularity lies at the heart of our work in cities as a powerful weapon in the fight against plastic pollution. By reimagining our approach to consumption and waste, we can safeguard our marine ecosystems and empower others across Latin America and the Caribbean to do the same. Prevention is protection. 

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and chairperson of the GEF

The partnership aims to support Colombia, Jamaica and Panama to adopt closed-loop policies at the city-level, engage the private sector to do the same and create an inter-city network among Latin America and the Caribbean cities on marine plastics and plastic pollution more broadly.

Circular advantages

By focusing on interventions upstream and identifying products that contain chemicals of concern, the project will harness policy and fiscal instruments to reduce unnecessary or toxic plastic products and limit the open burning of plastics. 

It also plans to develop reuse and refill systems, as well as new circular business models in collaboration with those along plastic value chains. 

A rapid circularity shift can reduce the volume of plastics that pollute the ocean by over 80%, finds UNEP.The project partners assert that a rapid shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics that pollute the ocean by over 80%, reducing reliance on creating new plastic and saving governments over US$70 billion in less than 20 years and creating an additional 700,000 jobs by 2040.  

We hope this project can serve as a model for upscaling and replication throughout the wider Caribbean region while encouraging the commitment by governments –  under the Cartagena Convention – to control, reduce and prevent marine pollution. 

Cartagena Convention director Chris Corbin

The four-year project will bring Barranquilla and Cartagena in Colombia, Kingston and Montego Bay in Jamaica and Panama City and Colón in Panama, alongside other cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, together to establish practices to redesign products and systems for less use of unnecessary plastic, reducing environmental and health impacts. 

Slashing single-use

UNEP reports that nearly one-third of all plastic is single-use, 32% contaminates soil and freshwater ecosystems and 10 million metric tons are released into the ocean annually, worsening the triple planetary crisis – climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. 

Without decisive action, pollution is expected to triple by 2060. Circularity aims to keep materials at their highest value throughout the value chain for as long as possible by transforming how we design, make, use and discard products. 

The global economy is only 8.6% circular – a figure slightly increased in Latin America and the Caribbean at 10%, finds the organization. The environmental impacts of today’s “take, make, waste” economy are most noticeable in cities, with urban centers responsible for around 60% of marine plastics. 

Last year, The Circulate Initiative released a report finding that without the data necessary to understand the plastic pollution rates of each city in the region, it is difficult to identify a suitable approach to remedy plastic pollution problems. What a successful strategy needs are locally-adjustable solutions to a global issue.

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