Here’s a quick thought experiment: how many things within your arm’s reach are made of plastic? When it comes to sustainable development, plastic is often given a free pass because it's so convenient. However, free passes also come with expiry dates.
The tipping point
Plasticity refers to a material’s ability to be molded into any shape and retain it. It's an inherent characteristic of plastic, which is also a silent environmental threat as it is difficult to degrade naturally.
This is an issue which we can’t sweep it under Earth’s rug anymore. To put the problem’s magnitude into perspective, 400mn+ tonnes of plastic waste are churned out every year worldwide, and only 10% of it ends up in recycling systems. Plastic convenience is a loan our environment can no longer afford to pay.
Fortunately, there are large efforts underway to address this issue. The theme for World Environment Day 2023 aims to look beyond the surface of its central motto’s statement. Leading by example through its 2014 ban on plastic bags, the host nation of Côte d'Ivoire hopes to shed light on the best practices for sustainable use of plastic, from big corporations down to everyday individual use.
The partner host, The Netherlands, echoes the same sentiment.
“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.”
- Vivianne Heijnen, Minister for the Environment, Netherlands.
With this goal in sight, the scientific community has forged ahead, devising new strategies and solutions to reduce plastic’s detrimental impact on the environment. The good news? There have already been some major breakthroughs and success stories.
The common thread among these three solutions is governments making a difference in plastic pollution on two fronts: backing research for sustainable plastic alternatives and creating awareness on an individual level amidst the general public.
Modern civilization as a whole is responsible for plastic pollution. While researchers and governments do their part, as individuals, we also have a pivotal role to play in eliminating the threat down to its roots. Mindful use, regular recycling & awareness on eco-friendly alternatives are duties we can no longer afford to ignore.
This World Environment Day, let’s take a conscious step to #BeatPlasticPollution
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