The consumer movement has marked 15 March with World Consumer Rights Day every year since 1983. Our guest, Consumers International, looks back on this year’s event.
This is a guest post by Consumers International. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
World Consumer Rights Day highlights the power of consumers and their right to a fair, safe and sustainable marketplace. This year, with theme of Tackling Plastic Pollution, we asked our members to utilise the 7Rs of waste management in their campaigns – because recycling is only a small part of the solution.
— Consumers Int (@Consumers_Int) March 15, 2021
65 member organisations from over 50 countries ran innovative and path-breaking campaigns helping consumers to rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, repair and replace plastic products in their everyday lives. 19 members held educational workshops with consumers and many more involved consumers directly in practical activities.
Why shout about plastic pollution?
Plastic is an incredibly adaptable and useful material. But the global production and consumption of plastics is now completely unsustainable, and shows no sign of slowing down.
The Pew Charitable Trusts & SYSTEMIQ report last year, Breaking the Plastic Wave, calculates that the flow of plastics into the ocean will triple by 2040 if we continue with business as usual. Since plastic is made from fossil fuel, by this date the industry will use up 19% of the planet’s total carbon budget.
What’s more, the 12 million metric tonnes of plastic that we currently throw into our oceans every year have disastrous knock-on effects for marine biodiversity and human health. Once plastic has entered the food chain, it’s not long before it ends up on our plate.
Consumers across the world want to see a change of direction, and are ready and willing to change their consumption habits. Despite the increased use of single-use plastic during the pandemic, 66% of consumers globally have become more concerned about the environment and nearly 74% of consumers (in Europe, the US and South America) are willing to spend more on sustainable packaging.
Taking it global
Global problems require a global response. Our members ran powerful campaigns in their communities, mobilising local consumers for change and demanding action from local businesses and government.
Consumers International can take the case to the international stage. Through our social media channels and website, our members’ campaigns have already reached an audience of over 7 million people globally. World Consumer Rights Day has gained attention from news organisations across the world, from India to China to Ghana.
Where next for this growing movement? Many are calling for a new global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. Such an agreement, modelled on the Paris Agreement on climate change, could address the problem at source by putting legally binding caps on plastic production.
But if we have learned anything this World Consumer Rights Day, it is that consumer advocates need to have a seat at the table. Plastic pollution is a consumer rights issue and to tackle one, you have to tackle the other.
This was a guest post by Consumers International. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.