By Supriya Sharma
‘I am not an environmentalist, I am an Earth Warrior and protecting the mother earth is my duty’
World Environment Day is observed every year on June 5 to raise the awareness of public regarding the protection of our environment. Government agencies, Municipalities as well as NGOs come together to create awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. Theme of this year’s World Environment day is Solutions to plastic pollution.
World Environment Day is the biggest international day for the environment. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and held annually since 1973, it has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach. It is celebrated by millions of people across the world.
World Environment Day 2023 is hosted by Côte d’Ivoire and supported by the Netherlands and the theme will focus on solutions to plastic pollution under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution. It is a reminder that people’s actions on plastic pollution matters. The steps governments and businesses are taking to tackle plastic pollution are the consequence of this action.
Plastic Pollution Coalition which is a non-profit communications and advocacy organization with its office at Washington, DC, USA, collaborates with an expansive global alliance of organizations, businesses, and individuals to create a more just, equitable, regenerative world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts.
Plastic Pollution Coalition underlines that plastic is found in the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the soil below us, and even inside of our bodies. Plastic pollution is a human health, social justice, environmental, climate, and wildlife issue. People and communities across the world are finally waking up to the fact that plastic pollution impacts everything. At every stage, from extraction to production to transportation to use to disposal, plastic pollution threatens human health on a global scale. Communities on the fence-line of petrochemical and plastics infrastructure face chemical pollution of air, land, and water, in addition to pollution of dangerous plastic particles, noise, and risk of deadly industrial accidents like fires and explosions. Serious human health problems associated with fossil fuel extraction, plastics production, use, and disposal are numerous, and include cancer, diabetes, obesity, respiratory issues, reproductive and hormone problems, asthma, and more.
Plastic Pollution Coalition highlights that the ninety-nine percent of all plastics are made from petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels—gas, oil, and coal—and drive the climate crisis. Despite the urgent need to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, the plastics and petrochemical industries plan to quadruple plastics production by 2050—threatening our chances of keeping global temperature rise below the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold. By 2050, plastic production and disposal could generate greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to 615 coal plants annually and use up to 13% of Earth’s remaining carbon budget. Microplastics and nanoplastics may be interfering with the ocean’s ability to absorb and sequester carbon, our biggest natural carbon sink. Plastic can be found all throughout nature, from the oceans to fresh waterways, to soils, air, and outer space. Plastic contains harmful chemicals and never benignly degrades; instead, plastic breaks up into small toxic pieces. Scientists call these plastic pieces “microplastics” and “nanoplastics.” Plastic items and particles easily travel across the planet, threatening the health of wild animals, plants, humans, and the interconnected ecosystems we rely on to survive. Instead of being recycled, most plastics are sent to landfills, illegal dumps, or escape into the natural environment; are incinerated; or are shipped to developing nations unequipped to handle this waste.
Plastic also affects the wildlife. Many wild animals mistake plastic for food. In the oceans, fatal entanglement in and ingestion of plastic by marine mammals is increasing along with the amount of plastic in the ocean. Once ingested, plastic items and particles can inflict deadly physical injuries on animals’ digestive tracts, including perforation of stomach and intestinal walls. Even small quantities of plastic can shorten animals’ lifespans, as has been observed in sea turtles. The dangerous chemicals in plastics build up in animals’ bodies over time. Plastic is a threat to all animals, of all sizes, everywhere.
So, today we must take a pledge that we will avoid using plastic. We will also make people aware about the harmful effects of the plastic and we will take the plastic thrash to the nearby plastic recycling unit so that we can hand over a safe environment for our future generations.
The writer of this article is a Ph.D scholar of the Department of Zoology, University of Jammu.