EDITORIAL: This year’s theme for World Environment Day “Beat plastic pollution” calls for efforts to banish plastic products damaging ecosystems and harming human health with invisible micro plastic fragments entering the food chain via marine animals.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, mostly single-use bottles and bags.

Of it less than 10 percent is recycled while 19 to 23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas playing havoc with marine life. A UNEP report issued last month had also warned that the level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics could grow to 19 percent of the global carbon budget by 2040.

In their messages to mark the day Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman iterated the government’s commitment to prioritise adoption of environment-friendly alternatives.

Rehman also called for global action to control plastic production, noting that it is set to triple by 2060 if the “business as usual approach” continues.

The issue though is already on the global agenda, likely to be sorted out in the near future. For its part, Pakistan needs to put its own house in order. In 2020 — latest figures are unavailable — this country produced 3.9 million tonnes of plastic waste, over 65 percent of which was ‘mismanaged’ — meaning it was dumped wherever without a care for its effect.

Eighteen percent of the municipal waste contained plastics. This is because only three percent of plastic products are recycled while the rest are left to generate pollution that can stay in the environment for centuries. Clearly, we need to change how it is produced and disposed of. Also the people should be made aware of what they consume so they can make informed choices.

The place to start is replacing the single-use plastic bags and bottles with biodegradable materials. As Rehman emphasised, a sustainable circular economy needs to be promoted for plastics by encouraging recycling and material recovery for reuse. For that to happen, though, the government will have to incentivise the related manufacturing industry to switch over to safe alternatives.

The PM mentioned that his government is actively working on the Plastics Prohibition Regulation for Islamabad Capital Territory. The provinces should follow suit. But a lot more needs to be done, as pointed out earlier, to get rid of plastic products on a sustainable basis.

In that regard UNEP — already engaged along with the government in the “Living Indus Initiative” which includes eliminating plastic waste from the River Indus and the habitations along its route — has offered Pakistan support for developing a National Adaptation Plan to deal with the menace of plastics. Hopefully, the plan will materialise before too long, urgently followed up with action.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Glenn Lindsay Hywood Jun 07, 2023 11:25am
Hi from Australia. Anything created unnaturally to how nature intended. Is Pollution. All plastics are polluting the natural world. If it hasn't been created organically or naturally. It shouldn't exist. We are in a huge amount of forever on the Earth trouble. We can't save ourselves. We can hopefully save the new human about to be conceived. The world is no longer safe to bring new life into. Billions of metric tons of plastic that now exist on the planet, are heading our way for an eternity as a suffocating cloud of nano plastics, as nature tries to destroy a product indestructible to the end. Sound the Alarm! The future of humanity is in danger. I wish with all the love for what the natural world used to be. Pure! I could see a realistic solution to healing the damage we have done. Plastic is forever. That's the problem. Glenn the naturist.
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