Let’s beat plastic pollution; World pledges to rid plastic menace this Environment Day

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By: Ranjan K Baruah

Whether we accept it or not, the fact is that it is very difficult to live without plastic bags. It has become an important part of our life as it has many immediate advantages for us. Its adverse impact is known to us but still many of us use plastic bags for different purposes. We are both creatures and moulder of our environment, which gives us physical sustenance and affords us the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth. By 2011, worldwide one million plastic bags were consumed every minute. That has gone up by leaps and bounds with every passing year.

A rare novelty in the 1970s, plastic shopping bags are now an omnipresent global product, produced at a rate of one trillion a year and they have become one of the greatest challenge for the environment. 1933 Polyethylene, the most commonly used plastic, is created by accident at a chemical plant in Northwich, England. While polyethylene had been created in small batches before, this was the first synthesis of the material that was industrially practical, and it was initially used in secret by the British military during World War II.

In 1965, the one-piece polyethylene shopping bag is patented by the Swedish company Celloplast. Designed by engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin, the plastic bag quickly begins to replace cloth and plastic in Europe. Plastic companies begin to aggressively market their product as superior to paper and reusable bags by 1979. Bangladesh is the first country in the world to implement a ban on thin plastic bags in 2002, after it was found they played a key role in clogging drainage systems during disastrous flooding. Other countries begin to follow suit.

We are aware that 5 June is celebrated as World Environment Day (WED) which is observed in more than 100 countries around the world. The celebration of this day provides us with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment.

Each WED is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for this year, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health. While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.

The year 1972 marked a turning point in the development of international environmental politics: the first major conference on environmental issues, convened under the auspices of the United Nations, was held from June 5-16 in Stockholm (Sweden). Later that year, on 15 December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/2994 (XXVII)) designating June 5 as World Environment Day. Also on 15 December, the General Assembly adopted another resolution (A/RES/3000 (XXVII)) that led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the specialized agency on environmental issues. The Day has developed into a global platform for taking action on urgent environmental issues. Millions of people have taken part over the years, helping drive change in our consumption habits, as well as in national and international environmental policy.

On his message António Guterres, Secretary-General of UN has said that “a healthy planet is essential for a prosperous and peaceful future. We all have a role to play in protecting our only home, but it can be difficult to know what to do or where to start. That’s why this World Environment Day has just one request: beat plastic pollution.”

This year #BeatPlasticPollution is chosen as the theme of World Environment Day, hosted this year by India. Companies and governments around the world continue to announce new pledges to tackle plastic waste. We can be a part of a global movement to break up with plastic. Every WED has a different global host country, where the official celebrations take place. This year it is India.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states our resolve “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources”. In particular, Goals 14 and 15 focus on protecting under water and on land ecosystems, as well as on sustainably using marine and terrestrial resources.  As the day provides opportunity to take action and make a difference, so, it is up to us and our activities. Can we beat plastic pollution or we are going to bring more trouble to our planet is the issue? We must take action as we do not have any other planet to live in. Lets us take up the challenge and participate to beat plastic pollution. (With direct input from UN publication. Feedback may be sent to bkranjan@gmail.com)

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