World Environment Day will take place on the 5th of June 2018 and is the UN’s most important day for raising awareness and encouraging worldwide action for the protection of our planet.  Since it began in 1974 it has become a global campaign that is celebrated in over 100 countries.

Each year World Environment Day has a different host country where the official celebrations take place and this year the focus will be on India.  The spotlight on a different host country each year helps raise awareness for the individual environmental challenges that country faces and the action needed to address them.

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution – If you can’t reuse it, refuse It.” such a simple but crucial message to address what has become one of the biggest environmental concerns of our time. 

In the lead up to World Environment Day, India has been making great strides in the war on plastic pollution.  In Mumbai on the 27th of May 2018, on Versova beach, 6000 volunteers participated in one of the largest ever beach clean ups in India and the results were astounding;  This clean-up campaign has been running for 136 weeks, collecting more than 200,000 kgs of trash from a beach that you could not previously walk on from all pollution.

The Versova beach clean-up campaign highlights the tremendous efforts of environmental activist, Mumbai High Court Lawyer and UN Champion of the Earth, Afroz Shah and the heroic efforts of thousands of volunteers.  With his support, community volunteers have participated in weekly beach cleanups around Mumbai for the past three years, in the cleaning up of rivers, lakes and parks around India.

Whilst plastic is certainly useful in many industries, the over use of disposable plastics has placed a huge burden on our environment.  World Environment Day organisers highlight some alarming facts of single-use plastics: “Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.”

And the bad news doesn’t end there; almost one third of disposable plastic escapes collection systems, and ends up polluting our cities and our natural environment.  This means each year, up to 13 million tonnes of plastic leaks into our oceans, to smother our beautiful coral reefs and threaten our vulnerable marine wildlife.  This is not only bad news for us, its bad news for multiple future generations as plastic pollution can take up to 1000 years to fully disintegrate. 

Plastic pollution is also highly harmful to our bodies. Scientists have found plastics contain numerous harmful chemicals and it can also harbour other pollutants like metals and pesticides, many of which are toxic to our health.

The good news is plastic pollution is something everyone can take action against so we can begin to reverse its negative effects on our natural environment, our wildlife and our health.  The message this year is clear – If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.  This means saying no to plastic grocery bags and bringing your own environmentally friendly reusable shopping bags.  Bringing your own reusable coffee cup the next time you visit a café.  Refusing plastic straws and cutlery that can take up to 100 years to break down.  Campaigning and raising awareness in your local community to reduce waste.  Picking up and disposing of plastics that you might find on the beach or in parks.

Beating plastic pollution is a battle we all face.  This year, start taking these few simple measures and make World Environment Day your opportunity to invest in the health of our global environment.