By Robin Gomes
“Beat Plastic Pollution” is the theme of this year’s United Nations World Environment Day, Tuesday. The theme for the June 5 annual observance is an invitation to make changes in everyday life to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health.
Despite the many valuable uses of plastic, people everywhere have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.
Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, and every year, up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags are used. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic is of single use.
Nearly one third of used plastic packaging escapes collection systems, which means it ends up clogging the world’s city streets and polluting the natural environment.
In a message for this year’s World Environment Day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed serious concern saying “our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste.” “Every year, more than 8 million tonnes end up in the oceans,” he said, adding that “microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy.” Plastic pollution is affecting even remote areas of the planet, including the Artic. “If present trends continue, by 2050,” Guterres warned, “our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”
Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life, and they also make their way into the water supply and enter human bodies. Marine life, including fish for human consumption, is also affected by microplastics.
Plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.
Guterres has a simple message on World Environment Day: “Reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use.”
Pope Francis an ardent champion of the environment published an encyclical “Laudato Si” in 2015 in which he takes an integral and holistic approach to the created world, with its ethical, moral, social and political implications on man.
The Pope marked World Environment Day, Tuesday, tweeting a prayer: “Lord, reawaken in us a sense of praise and gratitude for our Earth, and for everything you have created.”
Narendra Modi, the Prime minister of India, the host of this year’s World Environment Day, also had a tweet: “Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature.”