Stockholm (NordSIP) – Happy World Environment Day, everyone! As we celebrate this date for the 50th time today, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and the steep road ahead.
It was during the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 that the UN general assembly designated 5 June as a day for raising environmental awareness. The historic resolution XXVII urges governments, organisations, and individuals “to undertake on that day every year worldwide activities reaffirming their concern for the preservation and enhancement of the environment, with a view to deepening environmental awareness and to pursuing the determination expressed at the Conference.”
Every year, a particular theme or environmental issue is highlighted, and participants make a commitment to take action to address it. In 2023, the urgent message is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution!’
“Across the world, cities, oceans, and landscapes are clogged with plastic waste, creating risks for human health, threatening biodiversity and destabilising the climate,” acknowledges Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). According to her, the world produces around 430 million metric tonnes of plastic annually, and recycling systems currently take care of less than ten per cent of this. Since the volume is still increasing, recycling is struggling to cope.
“We can’t possibly hope to recycle our way out of this crisis,” says Andersen. “We need a complete redesign of how we use, produce, recycle and dispose of plastics – a redesign that starts with eliminating as much plastic, and associated harmful chemicals, as possible from products and packaging.”
A less-known yet equally dire fact is that microplastics find their way into the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe. Many plastic products contain hazardous additives which threaten our health. Despite the implementation of numerous national and regional initiatives worldwide to address plastics pollution, serious challenges persist.
Yet there is hope, too. Looking at the World Environment Day Map, there is plenty of evidence that innovative, community-driven solutions to reduce plastic pollution exist. Hundreds of activities have been registered ahead of today’s celebrations, from beach clean-ups in Mumbai to cloth-bag sewing workshops in Ghana and zero-plastic-waste live concerts in Atlanta.
“World Environment Day 2023 will showcase how countries, businesses and individuals are learning to use the material more sustainably, offering hope that one day, plastic pollution will be history,” write the hopeful organisers at UNEP.
This Environment Day, and every day, we at NordSIP encourage you to take the chance and learn more about plastic pollution and support the global efforts to combat it. Have a look at the facts, learn how to use the UNEP’s Plastic Toolkit and go ahead and act!