World Environment Day (WED),June 05, 2018
- WED is stablished by UN in 1972. The same year UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was also established. In 1974 the first WED was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. From 1987 different countries host the event. This year(2018) India hosts the day with the theme Beat the plastic pollution.
- Watch if possible both videos: Plastic planet(6.26 minutes video) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73sGgmZoMBQ.
Theme of Environment day 2018 (1.4 minutes): http://www.worldenvironmentday.global.
- History of plastic:In 1933, Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson were workingon polymers in Imperial Chemical Industries(ICI)near Northwich(UK). The experiment went wrong and an unintended white-waxy residue was produced. This is what is called plastic that pollutes today. Plastic was used in World War II by the British to insulate the radar cables. Use of plastic gave an edge over the Germany in the war. So it was kept a secret for long time. In 1960 GustafThulinSten of Sweden designed the plastic bag. From 1979 plastic grocery bags were introduced in America. In 1982, Safeway and Kroger( supermarket chains) in the United States, switched to plastic bags. By the end of 1985, 75% of supermarkets were offering plastic bags to their customers.
- Plastic Today?: The cost of plastic is low; it is convenient and it is light. So it has monopolised the packaging arena. Every minute one million plastic bags are consumed world wide. Every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags. 50% of the plastic we use are single-use or disposable.only 2% of the plastics are recycled. The rest reach the land fill and water bodies.
Each year 13 million tonnes of plastic waste reach the oceans. It is seen at the deepest ocean( 10,000 meters) polluting the fauna of the deep waters. In 1997 Charles Moore( Sailor and researcher) discovered a great garbage patch in pacific ocean. The problem is so serious that scientists say that by 2050 the weight of plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish.Plastic in ocean. Watch this video on plastic in sea: https://www.thealternativedaily.com/seafood-contains- microplastic/.
Plastic is found in the mount Everest. Edmund Hillary and TenzingNorgway reached the Everest on May 30, 1953. To further the journey they had to leave out whatever was not absolutely necessary. That was the beginning of rubbish on the mountain. Then every mountain climbers has added to it. It is estimated that there are 50 tonnes of garbage littering the Everest.
- Plastic and human health: For plastic bags, bottles and packaging materials, PET(Polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE(High-density polyethylene) and PP5(Polypropylene) are used. PET is meant for a single use only and it has to be used within a month. When plastic bottles etc., are reused, the chemicals in the bottle like phthalates and bisphenolmixes into the water. . The plastic toxins can disrupt the endocrine system, hormone balance, cause fatigue and weight gain. When the plastic is burned there is increased risk of heart diseases, respiratory problems, skin rashes, allergies and nervous problems.
Microbeads or microplastics (little bits of plastic in the size of 5mm) are mixed in toothpaste, shampoos, scrubs, cleaners etc., as abrasive to remove the deadcells from the body. Microplasticseventually end up in ocean/water bodies. Fish and mussels eat them. The birds feed on them and feed the chicks with plastic . Through drinking water, fish and birds meat microplastic enter the human food chain. It is estimated that by the end of this century, 4000 micro plastic will enter, every human body, in a year .
- Plastic and planet health: The plastic is non degradable and it can continue to pollute the earth at least for 1000 years. The plastic bags thrown on land makes the soil less fertile. The chemical foul gases released by plastic bags make the soil toxic.Birds die because of their legs entangled in plastic bags; the sea animals, especially the endangered species like turtle and whales, die entangledin plastic fishing nets that are abandoned in the sea.
- Countries have banned Plastic:So far the research, for new forms of plastic that are less harmful to the environment, has failed. So the solution to end the plastic menace is in the hand of the consumer. 40 countries have taken effort to regulate, reduce and ban the single/disposable use of plastics.
Sikkim a Himalayan state of India, has bannedsince 1998. Bangladesh has banned the thin plastic in 2002. South Africa introduced the bag levy in 2004. Eritrea banned plastic bags in 2005.Tanzaniabanned the plastic bags in 2006. Botswana introduced a levy on Plastic Bags in 2007. Uganda introduced a ban on plastic bags in 2007. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008. Mauritania banned the plastic bags in 2013.Cameroonbanned disposable plastic bags in 2014.Morocco effected banning the use of plastic bags in 2016.Tunisiahas banned plastic bag in 2017. Kenya has banned single use plastic in 2017. Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Myanmar and Taiwan have banned or imposed a levy, on plastic.Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdome –Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have made attempts to phase out plastic bags in one way or another.Queen of England is supporting the efforts to reduce the single use plastics in royal palace. UK is planning to ban microbeads. Scottish parliament had announced removing plastic drinking straws from its cafes, bar and canteen. The USA does not have a national plastic bag fee or ban but states such as California and territories such as American Samoa and Puerto Rico have banned disposable bags.
European Union has declared on January 16,2018 that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030 and the consumption of single-use plastics and microplasticswill be reduced .
- Possible reduction of plastic pollution: The market operates according to the principle of demand and supply. We have to refuse what can not be reused or upcycled. We have to purchase the products( eggs, toilet paper, fruits, vegetables, Milk, drinksetc) that are packaged in non plastic materials. When the demand plastic packaging falls, the production of plastic will come down. So consider to give up the use of disposable plastics goods like:
Disposable plasticwater bottle, bags,razor, plate, spoon, cups, knife, spoon, fork, shampoo & soap in plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic pens(use pencil or refillable fountain pen) plastic yoghurt containers, coffee capsules (like lavazza), Nutella/ honey/ jam/biscuits in plastic sachets, disposalle syringe, goods made of thermocoletc.
Doing Upcycling of plastic goods is a way to beat the plastic pollution. It is modifying or crafting an existing item that is going to be thrown away, it into a new, functional item. Upcycling is different than recycling for which the use of water or energy are needed. Upcycling requires a little creativity and craftiness withimagination.
- What can we do in WED 2018?:
- Do a personal plastic audit to realize the ways and volumes of the use plastic consumption.
- Sort out by type the house hold/institutional waste,and facilitate the recycling and upcycling.
- Generate a discussion incommunity/school/parish on how the plastic pollution can be
- Clean up plastic litter in the surrounding.
- Petition the government to legislate to ban single use plastic.
- Make a Difference: In this WED we can make a difference. We can make it as Afroz Shah of India is doing to clean the ocean: Shah, a young lawyer from Mumbai, and his volunteers, have removed around 13 million kg of waste since 2015 in what the UN has called “the world’s largest beach cleanup project”. Here is the link to watch the beach clean up:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8HxIfz07rk.
We shall decide to beat plastic Pollution. If you can not ReUse it, ReFuse it.
(S. Vincent Anesthasiar,CMF) , Secretariat for JPIC , MissionariClaretiani
Curia Generalizia, Via SacroCuore di Maria, 5, 00197 Roma, Italia.