Today, June 5, is World Environment Day and the theme of this year’s event chosen by host country India is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
Organisers are inviting the global population to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural environment, our wildlife and our own health — and it’s a matter of urgency, they say.
The throwaway culture that exists in much of the world means plastic pollution continues to reach unfathomable levels. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is discarded after a single use.
Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. On average, a person uses a plastic bag for just 12 minutes but the same bag takes 500 years to decompose.
“Making the switch from disposable plastic to sustainable alternatives is an investment in the long-term future of our environment,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. “The world needs to embrace solutions other than single-use, throwaway plastic”
The United Nation’s environmental arm released a report this month highlighting changes that need to be implemented around the world to slow the rate of plastic pollution and move away from single use plastics. With an ever expanding population, the world produced more plastic in the last decade than in the previous century, according to the UN.
“The report is intended to encourage society to question our current use of plastics and consider the adoption of alternative approaches, especially for those items which can be characterised as designed for single use, such as packaging,” Peter Kershaw, lead author of the report said.
“Packaging and other single-use items form a large proportion of the plastic litter leaking to the ocean,” he added.
The report highlighted a range of plastic materials that frequently cross our path — from plastic food containers to synthetic clothing, to the loose fill that is often used to protect fragile products during transport — and identified them as among the “main culprits” of plastic litter that harm the environment and marine wildlife.
Each year at least 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans. That is the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute and the disastrous consequences of this reality continue to wash up on our beaches.
Over the weekend it was reported that a small male pilot whale died in southern Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. It follows a similar story earlier in the year when Spanish officials found a dead juvenile sperm whale that washed ashore with nearly 30kg of plastic in its stomach.