World Environment Day is a global event led by UN Environment that is celebrated every June 5 in thousands of communities around the world. Since its inception in 1972, it has grown into a global public outreach platform, widely replicated around the world.
Each year, World Environment Day is organized around a theme and serves to focus attention on a particular pressing issue. This year’s theme, No Plastic Pollution, calls on people around the world for a Planet Free of Plastic Pollution.
According to the UN, the celebration of this day aims to make us aware that we ourselves can change habits in our daily lives to reduce the heavy burden of pollution of plastics in our nature, in our wildlife and on our own health. While plastic has many valuable uses, we rely too much on single-use or disposable plastic, and that has serious environmental consequences.
Every year, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags
The message of this World Environment Day is simple: reject disposable plastic. If you can’t reuse it, reject it. Together we can pave the way to a cleaner, greener planet.
With one of the highest recycling rates in the world, India is emerging as a leader in this sector and its role can be momentous in the fight against pollution. By organizing World Environment Day 2018, the Indian government is accelerating its leadership on an issue of enormous magnitude.
Its campaign urges governments, industry, communities and individuals to join together to urgently reduce the production and excessive use of disposable plastics that pollute our oceans, harm marine life and threaten human health.
The country will no doubt be an example after photographer Nick Garbutt portrayed “the other view of the Taj Mahal that we don’t usually see”: the surroundings of the white marble mausoleum filled to the brim with rubbish, including many plastics.
Some facts about plastic contamination
- Every year, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags
- Every year, at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans, the equivalent of a garbage truck unloading every minute.
- In the last decade, we have produced more plastic than in the whole of the last century.
- 50% of the plastic we use is single-use or disposable.
- We buy 1 million plastic bottles per minute.
- Plastic makes up 10% of all the waste we generate.
The figures are alarming and their consequences are even more alarming. Humanity has been the main actor of the direct consequences that the use of plastic is having on our planet.
We have been still witnesses of the formation of a seventh continent formed by plastics and microplastics (nothing less than an accumulation of 80,000 tons of plastic in the middle of the Pacific),
The most striking example is the United States, where 94% of the samples taken show the presence of plastics in drinking water; in Europe, 72% and in New Delhi, capital of the country hosting this World Environment Day, 82%. Some will say that, in view of these figures, it will be better to consume bottled water… well, no: 93% of bottled water contains plastic microparticles. Tap water will always be a better choice: it is more sustainable, cheaper and healthier.
How can plastic pollution be stopped?
Many people are asking themselves this question, and not a few are trying to make amends for this gigantic and devastating plastic pollution. To give just a few examples, we find The Ocean Clean Up and its drag system using ocean currents as the driving force of an enormous anchor to capture and concentrate the plastic. By suspending a large anchor in a deep, slow-moving layer of water, we can slow down the system enough for the plastic to move faster than the cleaning system. This will cause the plastic to build up against the cleaning system.
Hollywood stars also joined in stopping the excessive consumption of plastic to clean up the oceans. Adrian Grenier (actor and film producer) and Lucy Sumner, through the Lonely Whale Foundation, launched a campaign focused on the use of plastic straws: #StopSucking, as straws are among the 10 most present in beach cleaning and can do a lot of damage to seabirds, turtles and other marine creatures.
A big step towards ending this problem is the solid commitment to the circular economy, reducing waste to a minimum, betting on the reuse, repair, renovation and recycling of existing materials and products. The Commission and the European Parliament have finally laid the foundations for an ambitious strategy with measures to bring EU waste legislation into line with the challenges of the future, as part of the EU’s overall policy on the circular economy.