Whether it’s a lid on a take-away coffee cup, or a bag at the supermarket, today is the day to think about our daily plastic use – and where all that plastic ends up.
June 5 marks World Environment Day, and this year’s theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which oversees World Environment Day, is drawing attention to how much plastic is produced each day, and how much ends up in the world’s oceans.
Each day, the “equivalent of over 2000 garbage trucks full of plastic” winds up in the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes, according to the UNEP.
The “equivalent of over 2000 garbage trucks full of plastic” winds up in the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
“We must work as one, governments, companies and consumers alike, to break our addiction to plastics, champion zero waste and build a truly circular economy,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
“Together, let us shape a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.”
While last year NSW put a ban on single-use plastic items such as straws, cutlery and bags, plastic waste remains a massive environmental issue in Australia.
“I think all of us can see the impact plastic pollution is having on our environment,” the then NSW Minister for Environment James Griffin said.
Indeed according to a UN report, the manufacture of plastics has been a growth industry.
“Plastic production has increased exponentially over recent decades and today the world is generating 400 million tonnes of plastic waste yearly,” UN experts David R. Boyd and Marcos Orellana said in a joint statement.
“We are in the middle of an overwhelming toxic tidal wave as plastic pollutes our environment and negatively impacts human rights in a myriad of ways over its life cycle.”
“Plastic production has increased exponentially over recent decades and today the world is generating 400 million tonnes of plastic waste yearly,” – UN
And the plastics are often ending up in our bodies.
“Plastic, microplastic and the hazardous substances they contain can be found in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe,” the experts said.
Ways to help
The UN says that the world must move toward being less plastic dependent, and for individuals to “make sure your voice is heard” regarding the use of plastics in everyday situations.
This includes such measures as:
- Not buying food products, such as fruit and vegetables, that are wrapped in plastic;
- Telling politicians how important the issue is to you;
- Volunteering with plastic clean-up groups;
- Donating to charities who are working to solve the plastic pollution crisis.
“Plastic has been the default option in design for too long,” UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said.
“It is time to redesign products to use less plastic, particularly unnecessary and problematic plastics, to redesign product packaging and shipping to use less plastic, to redesign systems and products for reuse and recyclability.”
In Australia, the CSIRO’s goal is an 80 per cent reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2030.
“Our aim is to change the way we make, use, recycle and dispose of plastic,” said the CSIRO in a statement.
“Our science and technology is supporting government and industry initiatives to eliminate litter and divert plastic waste into a resource to build Australia’s circular economy.”
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Feature image: Canva Pro