World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5th by the United Nations, with the aim of preserving and developing the environment in the face of challenges such as industrialization, urbanization, and population growth. Each year, a different country hosts the event, and this year Ivory Coast, a West African country, co-hosted it with the Netherlands. The theme for this year’s celebration is to beat plastic pollution.
How did it start?
The origins of World Environment Day can be traced back to the first United Nations conference on environmental issues, which took place in Stockholm in 1972. During this historic conference, it was recognized that a healthy environment is essential for human life, and the right to life itself. The United Nations Environment Program was established, and it was decided to celebrate June 5th as World Environment Day.
The first Environment Day was celebrated in 1973, focusing on the theme of “Only One Earth.” Since then, various themes have been chosen for each year’s celebration, such as “A Future for Our Children” in 1979, “A Tree for Peace” in 1986, “Save Our Seas” for Life on Earth in 1998, and “Connect with the Worldx Vibe Web of Life” in 2001.
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This year’s theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.
Plastic pollution has become a significant concern in the modern era. Plastic and its products have become deeply integrated into our lives. The discovery of Poly Ethylene or Polythene in 1933 marked the beginning of the plastic revolution. Today, plastic is used extensively in our daily lives, and a staggering amount of plastic is being produced and disposed of globally. Statistics indicate that approximately 120 million tonnes of plastic are used worldwide every day, with 2.2 million tonnes used in India alone. This translates to an estimated 555 billion to one trillion plastics being used per year.
Plastic poses various environmental and health hazards. Chemicals such as dioxin present in plastic can lead to deadly diseases like cancer. Plastic waste management is challenging due to its non-biodegradable nature, and when hot substances are placed in plastic containers, harmful chemicals can leach into our bloodstream. Additionally, plastic does not easily dissolve in soil or water, causing adverse effects on terrestrial organisms. Even burning plastic emits toxic fumes that are harmful to human health and the environment. Plastic has earned the dubious title of the “patient of the modern century.”
Plastic pollution facts and figures illustrate the scale of the problem:
*More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are currently floating in the world’s oceans.
*Plastic waste accounts for 73% of the total waste found on seashores globally, including cigarette filters, bottles, bottle caps, food packaging, plastic bags, and cans.
*Global plastic production increased from 2.1 million tons in 1950 to 147 million tons in 1993. By 2015, it reached a staggering 406 million tonnes.
*It is projected that by 2050, every seabird species on Earth will have consumed plastic.
*Incineration accounts for 12% of plastic waste disposal, while 79% is either dumped in landfills or littered in the environment.
*Single-use plastic items, often used for packaging, are a significant contributor to plastic pollution. More than 40% of these items enter the environment after just one use.
*Several countries, including India, have implemented bans on single-use plastic items.
*One truckload of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute.
*Plastic constitutes 73% of the total waste found on beaches globally.
*It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.
*The average human ingests 70,000 microplastic particles annually.
*Over the past 50 years, global plastic production has experienced a twofold increase.
*The detrimental impact of oil spills on the environment is profound, as they lead to pollution of soil, water, and air, posing a significant threat to life. Oil spills also contribute significantly to global warming and marine pollution. Further research is necessary to effectively address and prevent oil spills.
*Ongoing deforestation driven by industries such as agriculture, mining, and paper production is causing severe repercussions for wildlife and biodiversity. It is crucial to collaborate and take immediate action to conserve existing forest areas and expand them.
*When considering environmental damage, plastic is often at the forefront of our thoughts. Despite decades of discussions among experts, governments, and other stakeholders, finding a suitable alternative to plastic has proven challenging. Moreover, proper disposal of plastic waste remains a matter of concern. Given that this issue affects the entire world, it is imperative to liberate the environment from the clutches of plastic.