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 End Plastic Pollution : Earth Day 2018 

Date of Publish - Sunday, 22nd April 2018
igniting_minds

This year’s theme for Earth Day must rank amongst the best for addressing a global problem with a direct call for action: End Plastic Pollution. Plastics are everywhere, floating in rivers and ocean, clogging drains and affecting the health of people and biodiversity. Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to eventually end plastic pollution.

Earth Day, which many consider to be the birth of the modern environmental movement, started back in 1970. April 22 also marks the first anniversary of the signing of the historic Paris Agreement by over 120 countries, leading to the coming into force of the first-ever comprehensive climate protection treaty in record time. This year’s theme focuses on another overwhelming threat to human civilization: Plastic Pollution.

Two million single-use plastic bags per minute are distributed at store checkout counters across the globe. Devastating environmental impacts resulting from their production, consumption, and disposal; plastic bag production uses approximately 8%-10% of global oil supply. Recognizing the grave threat, many cities and countries worldwide have already banned plastic bags and introduced taxes on certain products, successfully reducing plastic bag consumption.

Several cities in the United States of America have implemented bans on single-use plastic bags. These include Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle and Boston. The U.S. capital was one of the first cities to introduce a tax on plastic bags in 2009 and since then, there’s been an 85% reduction in plastic bag consumption. But the first city to completely ban plastic bags was San Francisco in 2007. Seattle banned single-use bags in retail stores in 2012 and has achieved a 78% reduction in plastic bag usage. Boston will join 60 cities and towns in Massachusetts that have already banned plastic bags and has adopted a dual approach of taxation and bans on single-use bags.

Kenya implemented a comprehensive country-wide ban of plastic bags in 2017 with a four-year jail term and hefty fines for the sale or use of plastic bags, with the goal of protecting the country’s agricultural, tourism and fishing sectors.

Chile has passed a national law with a blanket ban of plastics in coastal cities, with at least 230 cities impacted by the policy. With rising awareness on the impacts of plastic pollution on marine life, this policy aims to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways and is applicable in many of Chile’s largest cities and tourist destinations.

In the United Kingdom, stores began charging extra for a single-use plastic carrier bag, encouraging consumers to carry reusable shopping bags. The UK has also proposed a blanket ban on plastic straws. Besides achieving a reduction of over 80 % in plastic bag consumption, the government expects significant economic benefits from the ban, including £60 million reduction in litter clean-up costs and £13 million in carbon savings.

The Australian Capital Territory banned plastic bag usage in 2011, including all single-use polyethene polymer bags that are less than 35 microns thick. The government has been encouraging Australians to carry reusable bags and reduced a third of the plastic waste sent to landfills.

China has banned single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and shops around the country and introduced heavy fines for illegal plastic bag distribution. According to some reports, these measures have achieved a 66% reduction in plastic bag usage.

In India, Karnataka has banned plastic bags and different single-use plastic items like plastic dinnerware. This ambitious policy is expected to set a precedence for other states and significantly reduce the overwhelming plastic pollution found in India’s streets and waterways. The policy was first implemented in 2016, and all manufacturers in the state of Karnataka are banned from producing any single-use plastics.

Earth Day Network and its network of over 5000 environmental organizations will focus on mobilizing people for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics. They will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems.

Despite government policies and civil society action, the general public in India remains oblivious to the damage and threats from plastic pollution. The success of any campaign is dependent on the ordinary citizens of this country and requires a concerted sensitization effort. This Earth Day, Igniting Minds calls upon its esteemed readers to heed the call to End Plastic Pollution. Let’s us all start by saying No To Plastic Bags.                            

Author :
Rituraj Phukan

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