Working group on Global Systems Accounting
A clean environment is essential for human health and environmental stability. We need to quantify environmental pollution by the thousands of chemicals and man-made materials to identify their sources, pathways and impacts, measuring their true cost and driving reduction and remediation.
Working group members:
Waste and pollution
In nature waste does not exist as everything is saved efficiently, reused, and recycled. Pollution therefore is due to waste produced by humans. Humans produce chemicals, including toxic wastes, solid waste, including metal, mineral, plastics, and organic wastes. Organic waste is used and recycled by nature. Metal and mineral waste can be reused by humans (such as construction material and transport vehicules). Chemical elements are present in nature, their excess can be a problem of pollution and the presence of chemical compounds not present in nature which cannot be degraded in nature. Microorganisms and other living organisms are able to degrade and transform many chemical compounds, especially bacteria among microorganisms.
Link to the section of the background paper
The ideal state is when there is no pollution produced by humans in the soil, in the water, in the air, in ecosystems and all living forms on earth and its orbit.
The pollutants themselves are the accounting currency, either main categories of pollutants or significant indicator pollutants.
Positive trends and what needs to be done at the institution level
The principle of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is essential to reduce and eliminate waste
Reduce consumption practice the principle of moderation
Polluter Pays Principle
Develop the production of material which can be reused or recycled
Detailed knowledge of the life cycle of a product
Clean up action small and large scale water, land and sea
Industrial and urban ecosystems: inspired by the functioning of an ecosystem, some cities and production factories take into account the idea that waste has a value and can be reused or recycled
Circular or green economy: the economy follows a cycle with a continuous input of illimited energy from renewable sources and the input of material is properly managed and waste is reused or recycled
National and international regulation and legislation ensures that the principle of circular economy is implemented with a rule of law enforcement mechanism, including for international waters and space law
Concentration of chemical compounds in the soil, water and the air
Amount of plastic waste in the ground
Amount of plastic waste in freshwater
Amount of plastic waste in the oceans
Amount of microplastics in the oceans, in the food chain
Amount of metals and toxic compounds
Municipal domestic solid waste management practices
Waste material lost in orbit around the planet
Growing Production of plastics which cannot be biodegraded
Growing Production of chemical compounds which cannot be biodegraded
Growing production of chemical fertilisers for agriculture including Nitrates, Phosphates and Potassium (NPK)
Excessive use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) for energy production and other industrial purpose such as metal industry
Transport using fossil fuel mainly petrol, produces much air pollution
Export of solid waste including toxic material to poor countries
Excessive use of chemical compounds in agriculture as pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides and antibiotics) which are also harmful for human and ecosystems and biodiversity health
Poor (sometimes illegal) disposal waste management of construction materials
Poor municipal solid waste management
Encourage economic growth and consumption
Seductive advertisement for consumption
Action needed at the individual and community level:
Consumers need to be well educated with knowledge and understanding about their products and recycling activities.
The principles of the circular economy are well taught in schools and universities.
Values such as respect and moderation need to be practiced.
Current state of the art
The Basel Convention: Transboundary movement of hazardous wastes: http://www.basel.int/
The Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants http://www.pops.int/
The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent http://www.pic.int/TheConvention/Overview
The EU nitrate directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-nitrates/index_en.html
The convention on long range air pollutants https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XXVII-1… and https://www.bmuv.de/en/topics/air-noise-mobility/air/the-convention-on-…
The Bamako Convention https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/environmental-rights-and-governance…
A future convention on plastics https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/unep-head-responds-question…
The Montreal Protocol on CFC to prevent ozone depletion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in relation to the emission of greenhouse gases https://unfccc.int/
Plastic pollution https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/trust/archive/fall-2020/confronting-ocean-…
Return to Global Systems Accounting page
Last updated 30 April 2022