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.
On World Environment Day, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Administrator, Achim Steiner, reiterated the detrimental effects of single-use plastic, which to date has amassed an island of plastic 3 times the size of France, and is currently floating between California and Hawaii. He pointed to the fact that 83 percent of tap water contains plastic particles, resulting in toxic chemicals finding their way into the human bloodstream. Read more on his World Environment Day 2018 statement here.
On World Environment Day, Ms Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) delivered remarks about how wildlife is an integral piece of our environment and biosphere. She has stressed before how communities depend on wildlife trade and wildlife-related tourism for their livelihoods. According to Ms Bokova, the protection of wildlife must be considered a fundamental component to all efforts to eradicate poverty, bolster food security and advance sustainable economic development. The status of the biosphere, including wildlife protection, is likewise imperative to youth livelihoods and development. More.
For the week of World Environmental Day, UNEP put together a World Map of Events which youth can use to help identify global events and activities related to the day. One activity accessed from the map is about a campaign involving 600 students and scouts from Lebanon, who plan to commemorate the day by cleaning the Mediterranean Sea. The students will mobilize a movement through Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and local activists, all of whom will organize young people to pick up debris like the plastic bottles and rubbish that accumulates on the seabed. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness and educate on environmental sustainability while simultaneously removing waste pollution.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP’s) Young Champions of the Earth recipient (2016) Afroz Shah dedicates every weekend to wade through Mumbai’s shores to pick up debris including plastic waste along the coastline. Due to his environmental protection activities and their links to the purpose of World Environment Day , Afroz reminds us that every individual effort can contribute to the greater cause. Additionally, embracing the efforts of young people and empowering them to realize their strategies are central components to the achievements of the global movement on environmental care and protection. The meaningful participation of youth in community planning and events is crucial to the present and future condition of the environment. Extracted from article by Erik Solheim, in Youth Ki Awaaz on “The power of youth to help #BeatPlasticPollution”.