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Earth Day 2018: Focusing on Ending Plastic Pollution

Earth Day 2018 focuses on Plastic pollution

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FILE - A demonstrator holds a placard as she participates in the March for Science rally on Earth Day in Mexico City, Mexico April 22, 2017. The placard reads: "A country without science, research and education is a country dependent." Earth Day 2018, which is Sunday, will focus on plastics pollution. (VOA)

Each year on April 22, many people stop to think about the health of the world environment, as as if it were a New Year’s Day for nature, many make resolutions to treat the world around them more responsibly.

The day first celebrated in 1970 is approaching a half-century of existence with a movement that started in the United States and spread around the world. People celebrate the day with environmental action such as natural area cleanups, public demonstrations, tree plantings and, in 2016, the signing of the international Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep climate change in check.

The theme for 2018 is plastic pollution. Experts say a large mass of discarded plastic that has gathered in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles — more than 155 million hectares (600,000 square miles), or twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas.

FILE - In this photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a black-footed albatross chick with plastics in its stomach lies dead on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Nov. 2, 2014. Midway sits amid a collection of man-made debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the paths of Midway, there are piles of feathers with rings of plastic in the middle — remnants of birds that died with the plastic in their guts. Each year the agency removes about 20 tons of plastic and debris that washes ashore from surrounding waters.
FILE – In this photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a black-footed albatross chick with plastics in its stomach lies dead on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Nov. 2, 2014. Midway sits amid a collection of man-made debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the paths of Midway, there are piles of feathers with rings of plastic in the middle — remnants of birds that died with the plastic in their guts. Each year the agency removes about 20 tons of plastic and debris that washes ashore from surrounding waters. (VOA)

The patch developed in less than 100 years, as plastics have been in common use only since the 1950s. It is one of several masses of refuse found in the world’s oceans, brought together by weather patterns and water currents. Experts say many types of plastic that do not biodegrade can remain in the environment for up to 2,000 years.

Also Read: ‘Skip The Straw’: A Call For Earth Day

This year’s Earth Day focuses on getting rid of single-use plastics, promoting the using of alternative materials, recycling and developing more responsible behaviors concerning the use of plastics.

The environmental group behind Earth Day, the Earth Day Network, estimates that 1 billion people around the world recognize Earth Day in some way.  VOA

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UN Environment Executive Director Appreciates India’s Innovation To Tackle Pollution

"Policy innovation is important as well, and we have seen India excel here, not least with a major announcement to ban single-use plastics by 2022,"

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Every technological, scientific social and policy innovation is a welcome addition to domestic and global efforts to beat plastic pollution." Pixabay

It’s encouraging to see innovation — a key to tackling pollution — coming from all corners, especially developing countries like India, UN Environment acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya has said.

This is innovation in many forms, not just gleaming new technology like electric vehicles. Social innovation is important, like citizen-led movements to clean up pollution such as that led by Afroz Shah, who is engaged in one of the world’s largest beach cleaning operations in Mumbai.

“Policy innovation is important as well, and we have seen India excel here, not least with a major announcement to ban single-use plastics by 2022,” Msuya told IANS in an interview in run-up to the Fourth UN Environment Assembly here March 11-15.

Negotiations at the annual assembly are expected to tackle critical issues such as stopping food waste, promoting the decarbonisation of economies, tackling the crisis of plastic pollution in oceans, among many other pressing challenges.

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Praising India’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022, the UN Environment acting chief said: “India’s announcement that it will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022 is a tremendous move by the government.” Pixabay

Msuya, a Tanzanian microbiologist and environmental scientist, believes everyone can contribute to solutions to pollution.

Policy directions from the government, like India’s single-use plastic ban, help set the tone for businesses and encourages them to develop sustainable solutions, she said.

At the same time, upward pressure from individuals changing their habits and civil society campaigns force businesses to provide the non-polluting products that consumers demand.

Praising India’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022, the UN Environment acting chief said: “India’s announcement that it will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022 is a tremendous move by the government.”

“This unprecedented action will reduce plastic waste from 1.3 billion people in the fastest growing economy in the world. India is setting the bar high with this bold announcement.”

On World Environment Day on June 6, 2018, India pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic items like carry bags, straws and water bottles by 2022, the year coinciding with 75 years of the country’s independence.

The annual average per capita consumption of plastic in India is at 11 kg as against global average of 28 kg.

Single-use plastic ban and improving recycling technology are simply two tools in the same toolbox.

“There is no one answer to environmental challenges like this, and we need a comprehensive approach. For example, the UN Environment recently announced a project with Japan that will identify sources of plastic pollution in the Ganga river.

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This is innovation in many forms, not just gleaming new technology like electric vehicles. VOA

“This is the first time such a survey will have ever been done, and the knowledge we gain will help us better understand the problem. We need to be working across all areas. Every technological, scientific social and policy innovation is a welcome addition to domestic and global efforts to beat plastic pollution,” an optimistic Msuya said.

On smog becoming an annual affair in New Delhi every winter, she said Indian cities, like a number of others around the world, are suffering from poor air quality.

Also Read: RBI May Recoup Reserves, Strong Inflow of Foreign Funds And Benign Oil Prices Strengthening Indian Currency

“This is a global public health emergency. Living in cities should not mean living fewer years, or losing cognitive capabilities, or reducing the quality of life of our children,” said Msuya, who has visited and lived in cities chafing under the dark clouds of haze and smog.

For her, there is no magic fix. A range of actions must be taken by individuals, city authorities and governments, and these should be based on science. (IANS)