Every year, we throw away enough plastic to circle the Earth four times. Much of that waste ends up in our oceans, where it’s responsible for killing 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year. For the good of the planet, it’s time to rethink how we use plastic. Read on to get the facts and learn how you can ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.
Plastic Pollution Facts
Every year, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year.
At least 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, each year.
In the last decade, the world produced more plastic than in the whole last century.
One of the world’s biggest plastic waste generators, India produces nearly 56 lakh tonnes of plastic annually.
Out of all the plastic we use, 50% is single-use or disposable.
1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world.
Disposable plastic items represent 50% of marine litter.
95% of disposable plastic packaging is wasted.
Plastic can survive in the environment for up to 500 years.
Recycling plastic takes 88% less energy than making new plastic.
Did you know that in 1869 John Hyatt invented the first synthetic plastic called ‘celluloid’ for the noble purpose of replacing ivory in the making of billiards balls, so that wild elephants were not killed for their tusks?
Plastic was invented with good intentions! But over the years it has crept into everything. ‘Single-use’ plastic (things that are used only once and thrown away, such as plastic spoons, straws, water bottles, coffee stirrers) reared its ugly head.
The problem with plastic is that it remains in the environment for hundreds and hundreds of years piling up and poisoning our planet as it leaches its chemicals into the soil and water.
Plastic has managed to reach the most remote corners of the Earth, killing millions of animals that consume them, but its most devastating effects can be seen in our oceans where tonnes of garbage have collected and created ‘islands’ of toxic trash.
Palak Gupta, a 24-year-old artist, says, “The animals I have drawn here are either threatened or endangered, and the plastic bags around their heads, are just adding to their miseries. But we can change this by cutting down our plastic consumption. In fact, make your own cloth bags. Use old scrap cloth. Not only is it fun, you can make your bag look the way you want it to.”
India hosts World Environment Day 2018
World Environment Day, a UN Environment-led global event that takes place on June 5 every year, is the single largest celebration of our environment. It is a day for everyone to take ownership of their environment and to actively engage in the protection of our earth.
India is the global host of World Environment Day 2018. This year’s theme, ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, urges governments and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives to urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic polluting our oceans, damaging marine life and threatening human health.
“Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. If each and every one of us does at least one green good deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billions of green good deeds daily on the planet,” says Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
But it’s not a hopeless situation. Each one of us CAN help to stop this human addiction to plastic. Here are some easy ways to start:
Say ‘no’ to straws
Plastic straws are used on a large scale and usually end up in our oceans. A distressing video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged deep in its nose recently went viral. Refuse plastic straws and ask your friends and family to do the same. The next time you have a juice or coconut water and are offered a straw, just refuse it and explain why you did.
Befriend a bottle
Don’t leave home without a reusable water bottle and you will never have to buy a plastic one again. If you have old plastic bottles, reuse them or turn them into pen stands or bird feeders… or better still, grow plants in them!
Grab a bag
When you know you’re going to the shops — carry your own bag. When buying food or drink, take a steel or reusable plastic container with you. When out shopping for clothes and shoes, take a backpack. A sudden purchase? Make sure your handbag always has a foldable shopping bag inside. Where there is a will, there is a way — recently a shop, Ecoposro, in Goa, went ‘trash free’. It can be done!
Buy less plastic. Buy it only when you really have to. Recycle! The less plastic you use, the less plastic ends up in landfills and in our oceans.
Take care of yourself
Synthetic plastics release toxins into the food and drink that it contains, creating serious health complications such as cancer. For your health and that of the planet, use eco-friendly alternatives to plastic.
Drive the change! Make sure your parents, teachers and friends join the good fight against plastic pollution, too.
Text: Sanctuary Nature Foundation