Feature - Featured - June 8, 2018

WED2018: Beating plastic pollution in Africa

Since 1974, every 5th day of June is celebrated as World Environment Day (WED) by the United Nations as it’s “most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.”

Plastic pollution: A landfill in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, gives an idea of the mess in Africa


The World Environment Day (WED) has since its inception remained the UN’s flagship campaign for raising awareness on critically-important environmental challenges – from air pollution and climate change to environmental degradation. Also known as the People’s Day, the day is meant to encourage people to take action aimed at taking care of the earth – locally, nationally or globally.

As it is the tradition, every year’s celebration is hosted by one country; this year’s global host for WED is India, one of the countries being seriously threatened by plastic pollution. India has made an ambitious commitment to tackle plastic pollution in its water bodies by banning all single-use plastic by 2022.

About 4.4 million tonnes of plastic is said to be found in Africa’s water bodies, according to a finding of the United Nations.

“Plastic, and waste management in general, is a very big problem in Africa,” Mohamed Atani, regional information officer for the UN Environment told AFP. “Most of the plastic disposed in the ocean comes from the daily use of single-use plastics.”

The African Development Bank described World Environment Day 2018 as “a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time – plastic pollution. The theme invites all stakeholders to consider how they can make changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on the natural and human environment.”

This year’s celebration is themed beating plastic pollution. Every year, it is estimated that over 8 million tons of plastic find its way into the world’s various oceans and that if this trend continues unabated, by 2050, there would be more plastic in the world’s water bodies than fish.

However, Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment believes there was now “more momentum than ever before to beat plastic pollution and protect the oceans that we all share from the tide of disposable plastic. Seeing so many countries rise to the occasion by joining the Clean Seas campaign means we are all moving towards healthier oceans that are free from pollution and full of life.”

According to the UN Environment, various Heads of State would be meeting with the leaders of international organizations at the G7 summit holding this week in Quebec, Canada to “discuss far-reaching strategies to address specific challenges for the oceans, including plastic pollution, overfishing, rising sea levels and the resiliency of coastal communities.

“More governments than ever are implementing some kind of intervention against single-use plastics – from bans, restrictions and levies on disposable plastic items to the implementation of better recycling facilities and the development of viable alternatives to the most common contributors to marine litter,” says a press statement by UN Environment.

While speaking at an event held in commemoration of WED 2018 at the Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, an environmental health expert, Dr Ado Bello, said the negative consequences of plastic pollution were not only on water bodies instead it affected soil fertility as well, hence the need for proper disposal strategies for plastic materials.

“Plastic pollution also affects soil fertility however awareness about plastic pollution is lacking among the people; the government is responsible for educating people about the dangers of plastic pollution,” says Bello who was speaking at a WED 2018 commemorative event organized by the Bayero University in collaboration with the Nigerian Environmental Society, Global Shapers Community, Global Youth Climate Network and Baraka on Environment.

The UN Environment had on June 5th, in collaboration with India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released a report titled: “Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability”, outlining the global scope of efforts to beat plastic pollution, providing analyses of case studies from more than 60 countries to present the world’s first comprehensive study of the global movement to beat plastic pollution.

Similarly, the World Oceans Day is celebrated every June 8 to raise global awareness of the state of the oceans and aquatic life, and advocate for individual and policy action for healthy seas. This year, in line with World Environment Day the theme of the World Oceans Day is centered on preventing plastic pollution – 8 million tonnes of which end up in the world’s ocean’s every year.

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