Some hundred years ago, plastics changed how humans lived and became a milestone in history that provided society with ease and accessibility.
Over the years, people have seen how plastic has become a dominant material in various industries because of its diversity, hence a radical increase in its production from the 1970s to the 1990s. But too much of something doesn’t lead to good things.
According to the United Nations, the world produces 400 tons of plastic waste annually, which is hard to manage. Single-use plastics, like plastic bottles and bags, are among the top contributors to environmental pollution, harming marine life and others. Unlike other materials, plastic takes a significantly long time to deteriorate. As a pollutant, it lasts longer in the environment and disrupts the Earth’s natural ecosystems as it’s not made from organic materials.
Of the seven billion tons of plastic waste generated globally in recent years, less than 10 percent has been recycled. In the meantime, a million others were lost to the environment or shipped to destinations for burning or dumping.
Today, people from across the globe are coming together to celebrate World Environment Day, where everyone can take the opportunity to play their part in environmental preservation.
Celebrating 50 years of World Environment Day
World Environment Day is a global platform that inspires positive change and brings together people from over 150 countries to take environmental action, including the efforts of governments, businesses, and individuals, to create a more sustainable world. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has led the event since its inception in 1973. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the global celebration.
The first World Environment Day in 1973 was celebrated with the theme “Only One Earth,” highlighting the need for society to protect the Earth. Since then, the event has taken on various environmental concerns as its subject to guide people towards a more positive outcome. In recent efforts, like last year, World Environment Day focuses on sustainability because it promotes inclusivity for present and future generations.
Meanwhile, this year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution, giving a more targeted goal to its participants.
Despite the rising number of plastics in the environment, World Environment Day provides good news that society has science and solutions to address the problem. Although there have been green initiatives, the United Nations recognizes a public and political surge to expedite actions from governments, companies, and other stakeholders to solve the crisis.
Through the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign, World Environment Day shows how stakeholders can learn to use plastic more sustainably, hoping to eradicate plastic pollution someday.
Côte d’Ivoire is hosting World Environment Day 2023 after setting an example of combatting plastic pollution. The West African country since 2014 has banned plastic bag use and shifted to reusable packaging. The country’s largest city, Abidjan, has also become a hub for environmentally-minded start-ups.
Jean-Luc Assi, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, sees plastic pollution as a “visible threat that impacts every community.” Nonetheless, the country is proud to champion various treatments to offer sustainable solutions.
The Netherlands supports World Environment Day 2023, being one of the nations taking ambitious steps along the plastic lifecycle. The Netherlands is a signatory of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and a Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter member.
Vivianne Heijnen, Netherlands’ Minister for the Environment, stresses how plastic pollution is detrimental to various aspects and cannot be easily ignored. But thanks to several policies aimed at plastic pollution management, the Netherlands and the European community are fully committed to playing their roles in reducing single-use plastic production and consumption while promoting durable and sustainable alternatives.
Since plastic contamination is a global problem, much as pollution and climate change are, the idea of environmental preservation and protecting the planet appear to be difficult for an individual. But as World Environment Day emphasizes, everyone can play a part in the plastic crisis.
Every day Filipinos know how single-use plastics promote accessibility, but some are already conscious of their environmental impact and are eyeing more sustainable approaches.
For instance, major shopping centers and supermarkets in the country are embracing greener initiatives by lessening the use and distribution of single-use plastics by encouraging the use of reusable bags among their consumers. Meanwhile, other brands charge a small fee for plastic bags, while some switched to more biodegradable options. These collaborations spark significant change in society and bring about positive results.
Campaigns like these are not limited to private companies and their establishments, as local governments can implement similar practices. They can introduce local laws, support businesses and encourage sustainable consumer behavior through these advocacies.
While some clean-up drives or initiatives inspire Filipinos to take charge of their immediate surroundings and eliminate waste, some cities can build more robust waste management systems. Designating proper disposal bins or areas for plastics is one step in promoting waste segregation and ensuring that a significant chunk of plastic in the environment can undergo recycling.
Local cities can partner with institutions to make alternative packaging more appealing, consumer-friendly and cost-effective than single-use plastics. More progressive communities have already prohibited the public from using other single-use plastics, like straws, cups, and plates.
Another option is to install free public water fountains to encourage their communities to ditch plastic bottles and opt for reusable jugs.
On the other hand, government agencies and public servants can pass legislation that bans environmentally harmful practices, like openly burning waste, which is already in effect in bustling metropolitans.
#BeatPlasticPollution for World Environment Day 2023 marks yet another milestone for the United Nations and its efforts to preserve the Earth and its resources and protect the future of human society. For five decades, it has brought together countries from across the globe to share a common goal of environmental sustainability.
These collective efforts from stakeholders, like governments, non-government organizations, institutions and private individuals, are making an impact against plastic pollution to create beneficial changes for all.