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Monday, September 25, 2023

Millions seek solutions to plastic pollution on World Environment Day

Over 150 countries are expected to participate in the 2023 World Environment Day celebrations on Monday, June 5, while millions are likely to engage through in-person and online activities.

Plastic bottle house
Plastic bottle house under construction in Nigeria

Hosted by Côte d’Ivoire and supported by the Netherlands, this year’s theme focuses on solutions to plastic pollution.

Côte d’Ivoire is said to be showing leadership in the campaign against plastic pollution. Since 2014, it has banned the use of plastic bags, supporting a shift to reusable packaging. The country’s largest city, Abidjan, has also become a hub for environmentally minded start-ups.

“The scourge of plastic pollution is a visible threat that impacts every community,” says Jean-Luc Assi, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development. “We are proud to champion diverse treatments for the plastic pandemic.”

The Netherlands is considered as one of the countries taking ambitious action along the plastic lifecycle. It is a signatory of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and a member of the Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter.

“Plastic pollution and its detrimental impacts on health, the economy and the environment cannot be ignored. Urgent action is required. At the same time, we need true, effective and robust solutions,” said Vivianne Heijnen, Netherlands’ Minister for the Environment. “As part of several policies aimed at plastics, The Netherlands and the European community at large are fully committed to reduce the production and consumption of single-use plastic, which can and must be replaced with durable and sustainable alternatives.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the stakes could not be higher, as humanity produces over 430 million tonnes of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste. While the social and economic costs of plastic pollution range between $300 to $600 billion per year.

As the recent UNEP report, “Turning off the Tap”, makes clear, redesigning how we produce, use, recover and dispose of plastics and products could save $4.5 trillion by 2040.

“We must refuse unnecessary single-use items,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in a video message. “We must redesign products and packaging to use less plastic. We must reuse, recycle, reorient and diversify our systems. This is how we keep plastic out of the ecosystems and in the economy. Everyone must play their part.”

This momentum for global action is clear in the World Environment Day Map, which showcases innovative, community-driven solutions to reduce plastic pollution. Hundreds of activities have been registered. From beach clean-ups in Mumbai, to cloth-bag sewing workshops in Ghana and zero-plastic-waste live concerts in Atlanta.

In New York, an art project made entirely of plastic waste will be launched at the World Trade Centre. In India, screen stars and famous musicians have come together to create a music video and share messages to encourage more people to take action against plastic pollution. In Kazakhstan, local music group Great Steppe released a music video to mark the Day and highlight the environmental damage the Aral Sea is suffering.

These events, taking place in community centres, schools, businesses and homes, illustrate how individuals and communities are important drivers of environmental action.

Experts hope that momentum from these events can spur governments, cities, financial institutions and industries to use their power to invest in and implement large-scale solutions to overcome and reverse the plastic pollution crisis.

Described as one of the biggest international days for the environment, the World Environment Day is led by UNEP and held annually since 1973. The event has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet.

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