World Environment Day takes aim at plastic pollution

World Environment Day

This year’s World Environment Day (5th June) is focusing on the urgent need to reduce plastic pollution from land and sea.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and held annually on 5 June since 1973, World Environment Day this year focuses on plastic pollution because, without urgent action, plastic waste flowing into aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040. More than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled.

An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually. That is approximately the weight of 2,200 Eiffel Towers all together.

Microplastics – tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter – find their way into food, water and air. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles per year –and many more if inhalation is considered.

Discarded or burnt single-use plastic harms human health and biodiversity and pollutes every ecosystem from mountain tops to the ocean floor.

With available science and solutions to tackle the problem, governments, companies and other stakeholders must scale up and speed actions to solve this crisis. This underscores the importance of this World Environment Day in mobilising transformative action from every corner of the world.

Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040. More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent; save governments $70 billion by 2040; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

World Environment Day is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world. This year it is hosted by Côte D’Ivoire.

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