Businesses, governments and consumers to implement a more climate-friendly approach to #BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day 2018

Visit of António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, to the EC
Date: 16/05/2018. Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2018 Source: EC – Audiovisual Service

Everyone addressed plastic pollution yesterday celebrating the UN World Environment Day which this year is hosted in New Delhi, India. The global campaign of the U.N. to create awareness and urge companies, NGO’s, communities and governments to tackle this heavy burden was highlighted on June 5 with the launch of a report from UN Environment.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that plastic pollution must be dealt globally as microplastic particles in the ocean have increased tremendously. Despite the fact that both private and public sectors have started contributing towards this cause, there are still much more to be done in order to tackle it.

Background

The UN World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. In 1974 the first World Environment Day was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. Forty-four years later, the theme for the World Environment Day 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The target of this year’s UN campaign is to make sure that people around the world are free of the over-consumption and reliance of single-use plastics. By doing so, severe environmental consequences can be prevented and the natural habitat will be liberated from plastics.

Beat Plastic Pollution

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged everybody to stop using single-use plastics which have reached astronomical numbers. More specifically, Mr. Guterres stated: “Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste. Every year, more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish. Refuse what you can’t re-use.” The UN Secretary-General concluded by saying that global unity against plastic pollution is the solution towards a greener and more climate-friendly environment.

UNEP plastic pollution report

A new report from UN Environment, named “Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability”, was released yesterday in New Delhi by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim on the occasion of World Environment Day. The report examines the plastic pollution state in 2018, analyses the action implemented against plastic pollution and proposes ten-steps for the policymakers to follow.

According to Erik Solheim, the main issue of plastic pollution is how we use plastic. Particularly, the Head of UN Environment mentioned: “The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable – with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution. Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

It has to be mentioned that key results of the report show that government levies and bans, if correctly implemented, have been very effective in the battle against plastic overconsumption. However, it is clearly stated that firms have to show a greener responsibility and adopt a more circular economy approach.

India: a driving force

It was only yesterday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022. More in detail, Mr Modi mentioned: “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.”

The above initiative by India is the most ambitious one, which is meant to tackle plastic pollution, compared to the actions announced by 60 world counties. Except for this move, Narendra Modi announced a national marine litter campaign and a programme to measure how much plastic enters India’s coastal waters. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, stated on India’s pledge: “This has been the biggest, most resonant World Environment Day ever, thanks to the leadership of our global host India. India has made a phenomenal commitment and displayed clear, decisive and global environmental leadership. This will inspire the world and ignite real change.”

All in all, all stakeholders, from businesses to governments and NGOs, show a clear stance at addressing plastic pollution. However, governments have to give more incentives to companies to accomplish it and consumers have to adopt a much greener approach.

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