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Beat plastic pollution

Wed, June 06, 2018 09:13

By the Gazette Editorial Board

THE UN did well to choose combatting plastic pollution as this year’s theme for World Environment Day which falls on June 5, every year.

 

"On World Environment Day, the message is simple: Reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world," said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in a speech to mark Environment Day which was celebrated yesterday in more than 100 countries including  Egypt.

 

Plastic products have become a major world problem with growing dependence on their use for various purposes and faulty disposal of plastic waste.

 

A thorough understanding of the real threat posed by plastic waste, we need to review some shocking figures. Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to five trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.

 

The biggest problem, however, is caused by the way we get rid of plastic waste. As most plastic is made out of petroleum and natural gas, getting rid of it by burning pollutes the air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.

 

Besides, around one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes the collection system, which means that it ends up clogging our streets and polluting our natural environment.

 

Some environment centres have proved that up to 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year. This amount could circle the earth four times in a single year adversely to affect marine life, coral reefs and other precious creatures.

 

Unlike most substances, plastic can last for up to 1000 years before it fully disintegrates.

 

So how could we turn this year’s theme of beating plastic pollution into a working agenda to reduce this major threat facing our environment?

 

On the one hand, we could use this year’s motto of combatting plastic pollution to launch a year-long campaign to increase public awareness of the problem and to lessen people's reliance on disposable plastic bags and bottles. Local governments could also ban the use of plastic bags.

 

However, this will not produce any results unless projects are initiated for the manufacture of alternative, environment-friendly packaging materials. The government could encourage the youth and young investors to create small projects for the production of paper bags and other non-plastic packaging, for use by the big supermarkets and shopping centres.

 

Such projects would protect the environment in two ways: they would cut dependence on plastic bags and at the same time help recycle paper waste to make paper bags and boxes.

 

On the other hand, with the start of the summer season, millions of Egyptians will spend their summer holiday on the beach. Why not launch a campaign to clean the beaches and clear them of plastic waste?

 

This year’s theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” should be used as a call for action by everyone, to counter this environmental nightmare and protect the world from a hazard that is threatening the whole of life on our planet.

THE UN did well to choose combatting plastic pollution as this year’s theme for World Environment Day which falls on June 5, every year.

 

"On World Environment Day, the message is simple: Reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world," said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in a speech to mark Environment Day which was celebrated yesterday in more than 100 countries including  Egypt.

 

Plastic products have become a major world problem with growing dependence on their use for various purposes and faulty disposal of plastic waste.

 

A thorough understanding of the real threat posed by plastic waste, we need to review some shocking figures. Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to five trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.

 

The biggest problem, however, is caused by the way we get rid of plastic waste. As most plastic is made out of petroleum and natural gas, getting rid of it by burning pollutes the air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.

 

Besides, around one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes the collection system, which means that it ends up clogging our streets and polluting our natural environment.

 

Some environment centres have proved that up to 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year. This amount could circle the earth four times in a single year adversely to affect marine life, coral reefs and other precious creatures.

 

Unlike most substances, plastic can last for up to 1000 years before it fully disintegrates.

 

So how could we turn this year’s theme of beating plastic pollution into a working agenda to reduce this major threat facing our environment?

 

On the one hand, we could use this year’s motto of combatting plastic pollution to launch a year-long campaign to increase public awareness of the problem and to lessen people's reliance on disposable plastic bags and bottles. Local governments could also ban the use of plastic bags.

 

However, this will not produce any results unless projects are initiated for the manufacture of alternative, environment-friendly packaging materials. The government could encourage the youth and young investors to create small projects for the production of paper bags and other non-plastic packaging, for use by the big supermarkets and shopping centres.

 

Such projects would protect the environment in two ways: they would cut dependence on plastic bags and at the same time help recycle paper waste to make paper bags and boxes.

 

On the other hand, with the start of the summer season, millions of Egyptians will spend their summer holiday on the beach. Why not launch a campaign to clean the beaches and clear them of plastic waste?

 

This year’s theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” should be used as a call for action by everyone, to counter this environmental nightmare and protect the world from a hazard that is threatening the whole of life on our planet.

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