World Environment Day is an annual event that takes place on the 5th of June, this day was implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to raise awareness of global environmental problems.
Each year a different theme is selected, and this year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution
Plastic pollution is a global crisis that stems from the overuse and over production of plastic.
Plastic has many uses, unfortunately many of the common products made from plastic over the years are made for single use only. Some examples of common single use items made from plastic include:
- Shampoo/ body wash bottles
- Plastic cutlery, plates, and straws
- Plastic drink bottles
- Laundry detergent bottles or containers
- Plastic bags
- Food packaging
It is with the rise of these single use items that plastic has become a material commonly found in our environment in areas such as rivers, the sea, and forests in addition to the everyday environment.
Problems with plastic pollution
Causing harm to marine life
The various impacts of plastic and microplastics on marine life has been outlined by the UNEP “impacts to marine life range from physical or chemical harm to individual animals, to wider effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning”.
Many marine animals have been trapped in plastic, they have digested plastic and marine animals that have digested plastic that has contained toxins are based down through food chains extending toxicity to multiple animals.
Marine ecosystems as a whole are also being damaged by plastic as the material sinks to the bottom of seabeds and smothers coral reefs which prevents them from thriving due to a change in conditions.
Causing harm to humans
New studies are being conducted that research the impact of plastic and microplastic on humans. Some studies suggest that microplastics are making their way into humans through a plethora of ways, such as inhaling or digesting. Research is being conducted to understand the physical implications of this on the human body. This research is the first step in developing an understanding of how microplastics will affect humans, however it does indicate that a precautionary approach should be implemented before extensive harmful effects occur.
The harm of plastic pollution on humans is also visible through the social, economic, and political effects. Developing countries and governments unfortunately do not have the monetary means for highly efficient waste disposal methods. They also do not produce as much plastic waste as developed countries, but often other countries waste ends up in other regions. Developing countries often rely on the marine environment for water and food, therefore if the marine life is infiltrated by plastic pollution this then filters through to the community relying on it.
Causing harm to the climate
Plastic is produced from a fossil fuel (oil) which is a resource that needs to be used less worldwide if we are to prevent further climate change. The UNEP highlights that “plastic products create greenhouse gas emissions across their entire lifecycle” outlining the need to reduce plastic production to reduce climate change.
While plastic is harming marine life and marine ecosystems with its physical presence, plastic production is also harming the ocean through the warming and chemical change that is a result of being a large carbon sink. The world currently has a large amount of carbon within its atmosphere (a proportion of which is from plastic production) therefore the ocean is working overtime to absorb carbon from the atmosphere which is having a detrimental effect.
Resources for World Environment Day 2023
World Environment Day 2023 is about learning how to live in a society that relies on a resource that is causing extensive damage and cannot be ignored any longer. #BeatPlasticPollution will contain resources, guidance and information relating to the elimination of the plastic in today’s society.
The official campaign webpage for World Environment Day 2023 is: World Environment Day.
Event coming up:
Second hand market
Pop down and have a browse of the stalls selling items such as: books, clothes and other household items which will all sold by students. The sustainability team will also be at the event if you have any questions on how to best dispose of items that you no longer need.
- Event date: Wednesday 7th June 2023Event time: 11am-3pm
- Event time: 11am-3pm
- Event location: Newcastle University Students Union, outside on the Luther’s Terrace