The theme for this year’s World Environment Day – “Beat Plastic Pollution”, is a plea to every single one of us to come together to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. This year’s theme was chosen to highlight the rising negative impacts of plastic pollution on the planet and the theme invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on the planet.
Plastic, has become ubiquitous and we have become heavily dependent on it, it is in almost everything we use and consume. From food to bags, cars to utensils, computers to toys in a way, that makes life both easier and convenient. However, this synthetic material is currently leaving harmful imprints and raising one of the biggest environmental and health concerns in our world today with severe environmental consequences. The reality is that if this is not tackled head-on, it will do us more evil than good.
According to research, “1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute and every year and we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags” around the world. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use. In addition, nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging city streets, or in water bodies like the oceans and polluting the natural environment. Experts agreed that every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where they smother or suffocate coral reefs and threaten vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans “can circle the Earth four times in a single year”, and can persist over 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.
Furthermore, plastics also make their way into our bodies through water supply and consumption of food substances that contain micro plastics. What harm does that cause? Health experts agreed that plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides causing severe health challenges such as cancer and others!
So what can we do? The commemoration of this year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to engage in many ways that can help to combat plastic pollution around the world. There are so many things that we can do ranging from simple to complex such as asking the restaurants we frequent to stop using plastic straws, to bringing your own coffee mug to work, to pressuring your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste. In addition, here are some other specific ideas:
- Talk about it everywhere you go
- Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket
- Pressure supermarkets and food suppliers to use non-plastic packaging
- Refuse single use plastic cutlery
- Pick up any plastic you see when you go for a walk along the street or the beach!
What else can we do to tackle this problem? Here in LUFASI, the “war” against plastic pollution is taken seriously through a number of activities. For instance, we organise plastic waste workshops for schoolchildren who come to the park for excursion, educate the public on the danger of plastic pollution through our various media platforms, we carry out effective sorting of our plastic wastes and commemorate world’s important environmental days. For instance, we commemorated this year’s Earth Day and World Environment Day to further drum home the challenges of plastic pollution.