World Environment Day
World Environment Day is celebrated on the 5th of June each year and is one of the UN’s most important environmental days. It encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. It is the ‘People’s Day’ for doing something positive for the environment. World Environment Day has gained tremendous momentum over the years. Since its inception in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.
Theme for 2018
Each WED is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. This year's theme "Beat Plastic Pollution" was chosen by the host country, India.
Plastic pollution is a defining environmental challenge. “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, also ties in with World Oceans Day’s 2018 theme of “Prevent Plastic Pollution” that will take place on the 8th of June. The theme was chosen by India, the host country.
It also is about considering how all of us can make changes in our everyday lives in order to reduce the burden of plastic pollution on not only our natural places and wildlife, but also our health. All partners raise awareness and inspire action to form the global movement needed to wholeheartedly combat plastic pollution. It promises to be the largest and most consequential World Environment Day ever. They are going to build on the global momentum to beat plastic pollution and use as a turning point to people worldwide to do more than just clean up existing plastics, but also focus their action upstream.
This year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to embrace the many ways that we can help to combat plastic pollution around the world. And you don’t have to wait until 5 June to act. Nor do you have to take only take action on the 5th June; preventing pollution can be part of your green, everyday lifestyle.
Key actions and message
An important message the day tries to convey is in order to beat plastic pollution, we need to entirely rethink our approach to designing, producing and using plastic products. Their goal is to inspire solutions that will ultimately lead to sustainable behaviour change upstream. They are also calling on governments to enact robust legislation to curb the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastics. Its aim is to harness individual actions and transform them into a collective power that has a legacy of real and lasting impact on the planet. They are working with education partners to help them reconsider their plastic habits, generate solutions and raise awareness. They want to inspire children on how they can take action to protect the environment. Children can then spread this message to their parents and, importantly, the wider community.
Plastic’s impact on the environment and on humans
Although plastic has many uses, people have become too reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.
It is shocking to realize that:
· Every year, 13 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans, threatening marine and human life and destroying our natural ecosystems. It smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife.
· The plastic ending up in the oceans can circle the earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.
· Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment.
· What is even more worrisome is the fact that, around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased EVERY MINUTE.
· Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.
· Over 90% of bottled water and even 83% of tap water contain microplastic particles. Micro-beads from beauty products and other non-recoverable materials also negatively impact our environment.
· Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies.
· 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.
Other Global Plastic Pollution by Numbers
· Up to 5 trillion plastic bags used each year
· 17 million barrels of oil used on plastic production each year
· 100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year
· 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment
· 90% of bottled water found to contain plastic particles
· 83% of tap water found to contain plastic particles
· 50% of consumer plastics are single use
· 10% of all human-generated waste is plastic
What needs to be done?
It requires a complete rethinking of the way plastic is produced, used, and managed. Simply put: Our manufacturing, distribution, consumption, and trade systems for plastic NEED to change. Items that are merely thrown away immediately after a single use must stop. Individual action alone cannot solve the problem of reducing our plastic footprint. It is important that the problem is addressed at its source. Manufacturers must be held to account for the entire life-cycle of their consumer products. Policymakers and governments must safeguard precious environmental resources and public health by encouraging sustainable production and consumption through legislation. Focusing on the next generation is central to addressing the plastic pollution issue.
What has been done to curb plastic use?
Individuals, companies, and communities have increasingly exercised their power as consumers. This has been evident especially in supermarkets where people have, instead of using single-use plastic grocery bags, have used recyclable material or paper bags. Many have also reconsidered their purchase habits in supermarket aisles. People have also continuously turned down plastic straws and cutlery and several restaurants have joined in a campaign to not give any plastic straws out anymore. Beach clean-ups have also taken enthusiastically place. While clean-ups may only address the plastic issue at the end of its life cycle, they are a wonderful way to see the extent of plastic waste first-hand and rethink their behaviour.
Is there something else I can do, though?
Consumers must not only be actors but drivers for the behaviour change that must also happen upstream.
The main idea that this day wants to bring across is:
If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.
Furthermore, there are so many things that we can do:
· Ask your restaurants to stop using plastic straws
· Bringing your own coffee mug to work
· Pressure your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste.
· Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket
· Pressure food suppliers to use non-plastic packaging
· Refuse plastic cutlery
· Pick up any plastic you see the next time you go for a walk on the beach
On social media platforms you can share your ideas on social media using the hashtags #BeatPlasticPollution #WorldEnvironmentDay #WED2018 and inspire other people to also get involve.
Download the Litterati app to track the plastic waste that gets collected. Click on www.litterati.org and register what you collect so that it is included in the global total.
There is also a guide to help you develop your promotional materials for World Environment Day 2018. Click on the link to learn more: http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/get-involved/toolkits.
Encourage another institution to make a plastic-reduction pledge: Make a commitment to reduce your school, university, or organisation’s use of disposable plastic.
#BeatPlasticPollution game of tag
Join the global #BeatPlasticPollution game of tag: Invite students and staff to take a selfie with their canvas shopping bag, metal straw or any other reusable product and tag five friends, telling them to do the same. The person tagged should post a photo with their reusable item within 24 hours. You can also challenge other institutions to join you in cleaning the planet: Announce that your school, university, or organisation is cleaning up plastic litter in a park or public space for World Environment Day. Challenge other to do the same.
You can also host your own event and make it as fun, inspiring and interesting as you would like.
You, as citizens, must act as both consumers and informed citizens, demanding sustainable products and embracing sensible consumption habits in your own lives. To Beat Plastic Pollution, everyone needs step up and think about how they can not only reduce, reuse and recycle, but seek to inspire behavioural changes.
Only when we all come together, can we successfully combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time.
Remember: IF YOU CAN'T REUSE IT - REFUSE IT!
Kids, there is also a video just for you: