World Environment Day: Let’s Beat Plastic Pollution

World Environment Day: Let’s Beat Plastic Pollution

Since the UN launched World Environment Day in 1974, it has grown to be one of the globe’s most important platforms for environmental advocacy. Celebrated in over 100 countries, World Environment Day is a day that encourages people to protect and take care of our planet and preserve the life that exists on it.

World Environment Day encourages us to take a closer look at our culture of single-use disposable plastic and the disastrous effects its having on the earth, on wildlife and human health.

The campaign encourages people to make the SWITCH to reusables and REFUSE disposable plastic items.

Plastic not so fantastic

According to UN Environment, 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans each year which poisons, chokes, suffocates, maims and kills seabirds, fish and other marine life. According to a BBC report, around 100,000 animals are killed each year by plastic. Not only does plastic kills birds and marine animals, it also litters our pristine natural environment. When the plastic breaks down, it just turns into microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic – which are then consumed by fish and other sea creatures. The microplastic eventually enters the food chain, becoming a potential human health risk as well as a threat to food safety.

Plastics are human-made materials manufactured from chains of repeating molecules known as polymers, which make it durable, lightweight and of course, low-cost. While it brings benefits, it also has many associated problems. Plastic is often derived from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. According to World Watch Institute, four percent of the world’s petroleum is used to make plastic and another four percent is used for the energy needed in the plastic production process. This consequently contributes to global greenhouse gases and climate change.

Here are some other shocking stats that show the extent of the plastic pollution crisis (in case you had any doubts about the scale of the problem):

  • Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year worldwide
  • According to Ocean Watch, 5 trillion plastic bags are used each year which works out to be 160,000 per second and 700 per person
  • 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold worldwide in 2016 and will increase to 583 billion by 2021 The Guardian calculates from figures sourced from Euromonitor International
  • The Guardian reports that one million bottles are sold every minute and 20,000 plastic bottles are produced each second
  • Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium calculated that people who eat seafood can ingest up to 11,000 microplastics per year
  • By 2050, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that there will be more plastic by weight, than fish

Clearly, plastic pollution is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns and rightfully deserves the spotlight for this year’s World Environment Day.

How to Beat Plastic Pollution 

Keen to get involved in World Environment Day’s campaign to fight plastic pollution? Here’s how:

  • Visit the World Environment Day website and register to take part
  • Take a selfie with your reusables – be creative! Take a pic with your stainless steel straw, reusable bottle, reusable bag, reusable coffee cup, utensils, reusable food containers, reusable chopsticks or all of the above.
  • Share the image on social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 
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