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World Environment Day 2023- Let’s End Plastic Pollution Today

Blog by Debra Joseph- SI Barbados.

World Environment Day, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is held annually on 5 June since 1973. It is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world. This year makes it 50 years since its establishment!

Time is running out, and nature is in emergency mode. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half by 2030. If no action is taken, exposure to air pollution will increase by 50 per cent within the decade and plastic waste flowing into aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040.

We need urgent action now!

There are currently 11 million tons of plastic currently entering the ocean annually and this can triple in the next 20 years. This is equivalent to 50 kilograms of plastics per metre of coastline worldwide or the weight of as many as 178 Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world.

Harm to Marine Life

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s critically endangered whales. One of the leading causes of death is being trapped in ghost fishing gear, that is, fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded (for example nets, line, rope, traps, pots, and floats). Marine mammals, sea turtles and other animals often drown after becoming trapped in discarded plastic. Sea turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish, slowly starving themselves to death as their stomachs fill with indigestible trash.

Harm to Humans

Humans are at risk from marine plastic pollution. New research has shown that people are inhaling microplastics through air, consuming same through food and water and even absorbing them through the skin. Microplastics can be found within our lungs, livers, spleen and kidneys and one study even found microplastics in the placentas of newborn babies.

How do we ‘Break the Plastic Wave?’

  1. Improve waste management systems so that the right infrastructure is available to receive plastic waste and ensure its reuse.
  2. Enhance circularity by promoting more sustainable consumption and production practices across the entire plastic value chain.
  3. Engage consumers in addressing plastic pollution to influence the market and to inspire behavioural change.
  4. Close the tap by phasing out unnecessary, avoidable, and most problematic plastic items and replacing these with alternative materials, products and services.

There is no one solution. However, we are in this together, so together we must embark on systems thinking, innovation and transformation. The focus being on the main goal which is our commitment to reduce the use of plastics and prevent them from flowing into our lakes, rivers, wetlands, coasts and seas. We also must do this to support the Sustainable Developmental Goals 13 and 14, life below water and life on land. Can we accomplish this? I believe we can.

Soroptimists around the world are doing their part in the alleviation of plastic pollution by engaging in various projects that address the issue. These projects include beach clean-ups, social media campaigns, recycling and educating school children and the public on the topic. We form part of the solution and we are committed to ensuring that plastic pollution becomes a part of the past.

Pictures from Pixabay