UNEP in partnership with Samsung Engineering will launch ‘The 11thEco-generation Environmental Essay Competition,’ inviting youth all over the world to raise awareness on the theme of the World Environment Day – Beat Plastic Pollution. Deadline for Submission is 2 September 2018. Find out more information here.
UNEP’s Report, Towards a pollution-free planet, describes the pollution challenge, explores what is already being done to address pollution, and proposes 50 focused and actionable interventions to address pollution in all its forms. The report is a call to action towards a pollution-free planet. Download the report here.
When you live in a small island country in the Caribbean with a population less than the size of a village in some countries, you sometimes wonder what impact you can have in the world. However, the size of our countries should not deter us from speaking out or undertaking endeavours that benefit us and our country. Though we may differ geographically, several of our environmental challenges are similar.
In Saint Lucia the issues related to climate change are always at the forefront priorities, especially when the Atlantic hurricane season draws closer. Additionally, we have adopted comprehensive measures to help us deal with pollution. One may think that climate change and pollution are not directly linked, however we often see how bad environmental practices (like pollution, plastic pollution in particular) can exacerbate climate change impacts during heavy rainfall.
Over the years, my efforts to bring to the fore the above-mentioned issues have led to my participation in many initiatives. In 2013 the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in Saint Lucia (CYEN), for which I serve as national coordinator, held a summer camp for marginalised children that allowed them to build stronger connections with the environment. Since then, every year we participate in the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). In the lead up to COP21 we undertook the ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ Climate Justice Campaign, building awareness by targeting climate change impacts and international climate negotiations. Two years ago, I also started a microbusiness called 7Ks which focuses on upcycling and promoting sustainable lifestyles. As part of a team of young women, we started a social enterprise named Jua Kali Ltd, undertaking the country’s first-ever resource recovery pilot project that was extended to schools in 2017.
Snaliah Mahal is a native of St Lucia, with an MSc in Climate Change and International Development from the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) and a B.A. in International Relations from the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (Mexico City). Snaliah interned at the United Nations Information Centre (Mexico) where she deepened her knowledge of the UN system and gained an appreciation for climate change and environmental issues. Her past work also involved teaching French, Spanish, Social Studies and Visual Arts at the secondary school level.
Efforts to ban plastic are a positive step initiated by many actors, though for the complete omission of plastics, we must first understand how plastic is integrated within several domains of our lives. There are many jobs linked to the plastic industry from hygiene and sanitary products to mobility and consumer goods. For consumers, this means that even a simple thing as a morning cappuccino, in-office lunch or take-away dinner can be difficult without the use of plastic. This makes plastic use and its disposal a challenge. Likewise, it makes plastics not just an environmental issue, but a sustainable development one.
A few measures can be adopted to address the issue of plastics. First, a systematic assessment can help us navigate the economic and sociocultural implications of plastics in the lives of people. The magnitude of the plastic pollution challenge requires innovative thinking and action. As an example, personally, I have dedicated time through an island-wide initiative (Barbados International Coastal Cleanup) to collect and compile marine debris from the ocean. The initiative started with one annual beach cleanup in 1998, by 2017 we have expanded coverage to 50 beaches. We have removed approximately 148,000 pieces of debris in the last three years; 32,049 in 2015, 58,279 in 2016 and 57,551 in 2017, surpassing our efforts in the previous 16 years.
Second, as youth, we must identify the most pressing issues to us and seek policy solutions, which we can then use to lobby authorities for action. From our assessment of the debris collected, 50 per cent came from single-use plastics. The other types were beverage containers broken down into 15,828 pieces of plastic bottle caps and 10,957 bottles.
From my experience, engaging the public to take interest in such activities requires a participatory approach. This can allow individuals to develop personal commitments toward beating plastic pollution. In our project, we often invite community members to assist in data collection. This has allowed us to reach out to over 2000 people in the last three years. Such community members have been eager to participate and contribute to our efforts, including our plan to ensure a sustainable development approach to plastics.
Sade Deane is the National Coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Barbados. She is responsible for engagement and participation of youth in environmental and sustainable development issues. Sade coordinates the Barbados International Coastal Clean-up (BICC) which is the first island-wide and primary data collecting /monitoring mechanism for marine debris. Sade is formally trained in Tourism and Project Management at the UWI-Cave Hill and certified in Sustainable Consumption and Production Approaches and Practical Tools course offered by UNITAR.
I live in a Small Island Developing State (SID), vulnerable to contemporary global changes and challenges. This is intermingled with mismanagement of natural resources and processes. This ranges from the demand for raw materials to poor environmental practices, including waste management capacity. While the world strives to move away from unsustainable practices, there is a tendency for unsustainability to proliferate where it causes the most damage. Similarly, related issues such as lack of education and unsustainable traditional practices contribute to environmental challenges. Plastics remain in the environment for an indefinite time; they are not biodegradable. So why is something with such environmental consequences deemed a ‘disposable’ item? For World Environment Day 2018 the theme of “beating plastic pollution, if you can’t reuse it, refuse it” can be simply put as aiming to prevent plastic from becoming ‘pollution’.
Single use plastic is a part of everyday life and a tool of convenience, but it causes pollution that can be otherwise prevented. We must adopt ways of living and habits that are more environment friendly. Pre-existing plastic pollution is another problem that must be managed through practices like recovery and recycling. The ideal is to prevent further pollution using methods like education and awareness against single use plastics. Recyclable and renewable materials for purposes like building, storage and other aims do less damage to the environment and are crucial to beating single use plastics.
Examples of our projects:
The Caribbean Youth Environment Network Trinidad and Tobago Chapter advocates for upcycling- which is the transformation of trash into treasure. This activity encourages children to use the single use plastic waste they produce to create useful items for longer term applications. This is one way we can combat plastic pollution. For World Environment Day 2018 we are embarking on a social media campaign to promote alternatives to single use plastic products. This will demonstrate the simple ways to cut out the use of these items by using other available options.
Katrina Khan-Roberts is a tourism, health, safety and environment professional with special interest in the sustainable use of the coastal zone. She advocates actively for awareness of climate change, sustainable development and is currently the president of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network Trinidad and Tobago Chapter. She uses her expertise on technical and creative capacity, to bring different perspectives together.