Nairobi, June 5 – Today is World Environment Day. The call to action is “Beat Plastic Pollution.”
“Every year, more than 8 million tonnes end up in the oceans. Microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy. From remote islands to the Artic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says in his message for World Environment Day 2018.
Mr. Guterres is encouraging everyone to also stop using plastic products which are designed just to be thrown away, such as plastic bottles. “Refuse what you can’t re-use,” he says.
In 2017, Kenya took the decisive action to remove an ugly stain on the country’s outstanding natural beauty by banning single-use plastic carrier bags.
Long identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, plastic bags kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.
The East African Wild Life Society hailed Kenya’s decision to ban the production, sale and use of plastic bags with effect from 28 August 2017. Welcoming the Kenyan move, Executive Director Julius Kamau said that while plastic bags are convenient, their short-term benefits are minimal compared to their numerous adverse health and environmental impact.
“EAWLS appreciates that both the government, the private sector, consumers and the general public have important roles to ensure effective enforcement of the ban in order to reduce the environmental pollution associated with plastics. The Society also acknowledges the fact that persuading consumers to move away from plastic bag use is necessary for a cleaner environment throughout the region,” said Mr. Kamau.
In a related development, a new report from UN Environment (UNEP) released today finds a surging momentum in global efforts to address plastic pollution. The first-of-its-kind accounting finds governments are increasing the pace of implementation and the scope of action to curb the use of single-use plastics.
In what is framed as the first comprehensive review of ‘state of plastics’, UN Environment has assembled experiences and assessments of the various measures and regulations to beat plastic pollution in the report entitled: “Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability.”
This global outlook, developed in cooperation with the Indian Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, presents case studies from more than 60 countries. The report analyses the complex relationships in our plastics economy and offers an approach to rethink how the world produces, uses and manages single-use plastics.
Among the recommendations are specific actions policy makers can take to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics, according to a UNEP press release.
“The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable – with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” said Erik Solheim Head of UN Environment, in the report’s foreword. “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”
Among the key findings, the report states that government levies and bans – where properly planned and enforced – have been among the most effective strategies to limit overuse of disposable plastic products. However, the report goes on to cite the fundamental need for broader cooperation from business and private sector stakeholders, offering a roadmap for upstream solutions, including extended producer responsibility and incentives for adoption of a more circular economy approach to plastic production and consumption.
The report recognizes that single-use plastic waste generation and waste management practices differ across regions. While no single measure against pollution will be equally effective everywhere, the authors outline 10 universal steps for policymakers to tackle the issue in their communities.
Under the theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution”, World Environment Day 2018 is issuing a call to action to individuals, governments, the public and the private sector to examine joint solutions to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our own health.