This World Environment Day is commemorated with a central event in India called "Defeat Plastic Pollution", which seeks to raise awareness and promote citizen participation with a view to creating a movement to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.
This June 5, four major campaigns stand out:
- First, decrease the amount of plastic items used;
- Second, improve the management of plastic waste, which takes hundreds of years to degrade, polluting the soil and entering the food we eat.
- Third, it is proposed to reduce microplastics, as the latest studies conclude that 90 percent of bottled water and 83 percent of tap water contain plastic particles that affect the blood, stomach and lungs. Finally, this global platform seeks to coordinate more research in order to create alternatives to this harmful material.
Plastic and consumption
Because synthetic polymers can be turned into cheap, lightweight and durable products, demand for plastic skyrocketed around the world, from 5 million tons in the 1950s to more than 300 million tons in 2017.
The United Nations Organization estimated that more than five trillion (million million) plastic bags are consumed per year, while 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic.
Also, 50 percent of plastic is single-use, making it 10 percent of human-generated waste. The problem is intensified because each year 13 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans, killing 100,000 animals.
In the report "Future of the Sea: Plastic Pollution", Professor Richard C. Thompson describes plastic consumption through the framework "driving forces, pressure, states, impacts, response".
The driving force behind a large amount of waste is the demand for plastic products. Intensive fishing and maritime transport, along with increased tourism and consumerism, overload waste management, lead to ineffective waste treatment, leading to plastic pollution, explains Professor Thompson.
The specialist suggests reducing the use of plastics, effectively managing waste and cleaning, recycling, educating society and achieving good governance.
Plastic pollution in the oceans
Plastic pollution harms the oceans mostly and accounts for 70 percent of the waste found in them. Most of it comes from land-based pollution, which travels through rivers, Thompson says.
The problem has negative consequences for marine organisms, causing death and even extinction. Pollution of the oceans also decreases the value of the coastal strip, requiring costly clean-up operations.
A team of researchers from the United States and Australia, led by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, made a list of countries according to their responsibility for plastic pollution of the oceans, and concluded that China and Indonesia are primarily responsible. .
A report in The Wall Street Journal estimated in 2010 that China and Indonesia are responsible for more than a third of the plastic litter found offshore. From the research graph, it is concluded that most of the untreated garbage can be traced to Asian countries, many of them developing countries with poor recycling and waste management systems.
The future of plastic
It is not known how much plastic is in the environment, but it is certain that if measures are not taken, its volume will continue to increase, as well as its dire consequences.
It is estimated that in the next eight years, the amount of plastic elements will be equal to the volume of plastic produced throughout the 20th century.
Fortunately, more and more people stop using plastic products and offer to clean the environment. But individual actions alone are not enough to solve this global problem.
Since the source of the problem is in the “plastics manufacturing, distribution, consumption and trading system”, the entire “global economy needs to change”.
Therefore, the active participation of governments is needed to implement effective laws on the production and management of plastic products.
By Sopho Kharazi
This article integrates IPS coverage of World Environment Day, June 5, whose theme this year is "a planet free from plastic pollution."
Translation: Veronica Firme