World Environment Day: A Global Call for Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Author: Kum. Shilpa, Technical Assistant and Smt. H.V. Divya, Senior Scientist and Head (Incharge)

June 5th, marks the annual observance of World Environment Day—a vital campaign initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness and inspire action towards safeguarding the environment. Since its inception in 1974, this global platform has focused on addressing critical environmental issues such as marine pollution, overpopulation, global warming, sustainable development, and wildlife crime. With participation from over 143 countries each year, World Environment Day serves as a catalyst for public outreach and encourages collaboration among businesses, non-governmental organizations, communities, governments, and celebrities to champion environmental causes.

Rooted in History: World Environment Day was established in 1972 during the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, a gathering that sought to integrate human interactions and environmental preservation. The following year, in 1973, the first World Environment Day took place under the theme “Only One Earth.” Since then, the campaign has expanded its activities through the selection of various host nations.

India’s Commitment: India, being the 5th largest plastic producer globally, has taken significant steps to combat plastic pollution. In his 2019 Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon the nation to discontinue the use of single-use plastics. Subsequently, on July 1, 2022, the Government of India banned the production and usage of less essential and disposable plastic items. This measure aims to mitigate the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, as single-use plastics pose a grave threat to ecological balance.

Launch of the Plastic-free India Campaign: On the auspicious day of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Plastic-free India Campaign. The campaign’s objectives encompass the prohibition of plastic, increased tree and sapling planting, water conservation, plastic recycling, and the preservation of wildlife, flora, and fauna. It emphasizes the importance of individual commitment to environmental protection and encourages activities such as tree planting, public area cleanups, and community programs to inspire collective action.

The Urgent Need for Change: Research reveals that approximately 9 billion tons of plastic are produced each year, with only 9% being recycled. The majority of plastic waste ends up in landfills or the environment, persisting for centuries. If this trend continues, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be a staggering 12 billion tons of plastic waste in landfills and the environment. Plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose, disintegrates into microplastics that pose significant hazards to ecosystems. Common plastic products, including bottles, bags, food packaging, and straws, contribute to environmental degradation, block waterways, endanger aquatic life, and release toxic pollutants when burned.

Our Collective Responsibility: The power to address these challenges lies in our hands. The first step towards sustainable change is the prohibition of single-use plastics. Implementing an effective waste management system, including the proper segregation of wet and dry waste, is equally crucial. Solid waste management units have been established in all districts, efficiently segregating plastic waste for recycling and material recovery.

The Perils of Plastic Bags: Plastic bags pose severe threats, including:

  1. Endangering Animals: Stray animals often consume food wrapped in plastic, leading to choking and various diseases.
  2. Toxic Chemicals: Plastic bags contain chemicals such as BPA, which can cause ulcers, obesity, cancer, and heart diseases.
  3. Groundwater Contamination: Harmful chemicals from plastic bags contaminate drinking water sources.

Embracing Alternatives: To reduce the impact of plastic, the use of reusable and biodegradable paper bags has gained traction. These eco-friendly alternatives offer a safer option for wildlife and mitigate environmental harm during shopping trips.

Alternative for plastic usage in our daily lives

Plastic Product Alternative Plastic Product Alternative
Plastic bottles Steel/ Metal bottles Plastic bags Paper/ Clothe bags
Plastic chairs Wooden/ Metal chairs Plastic Pen Pens made using wood
Plastic tyres Wooden vehicle tyres Plastic Dining Table Wooden table
Plastic Mixie Grinding stone Plastic TV covers Covers made of cloth
Plastic bucket Steel bucket Plastic Zip Hooks
Plastic tumbler Steel/ Earthen pot Plastic Geometry Cloth pouch
Plastic bags Bags made using wood/ Bamboo Plastic pads Cotton cloth
Plastic soop Wooden soop Plastic thread for cloth drying Metal wire
Plastic container Steel box Plastic rope Rope made of coir
Plastic pipe Metal pipe Plastic mat Coir mats
Plastic mat Bamboo mat Plastic Torana Cloth Torana/ Torana made of paddy husk
Plastic broom Bamboo straw broom Plastic tray Wooden tray
Plastic toys Wooden/ clay toys Plastic slipper stand Wooden slipper stand
Plastic spoons Steel/ brass spoon Plastic swing Swings made of cloth
Plastic pots Steel/ Metal pot Plastic tissue paper Bamboo tissue paper
Plastic mobile cover Cloth cover Plastic flower garlands Paper flower garlands
Plastic cooker rubber Earthen lid Plastic bangle Glass bangle
Plastic toothbrush Neem stick/ Wooden toothbrush Plastic stove Metal stove
Plastic comb Wooden comb Plastic vanity bag Cloth bag
Plastic water drum Concrete/ cement container Plastic ribbon Cloth ribbon
Plastic plates Steel/ Metal/ Plantain leaf plates Plastic examination pad Wooden pad
Plastic Tea glasses Paper/ earthen glass Plastic banner Cloth banner
Plastic clock Steel clock Plastic necklaces Metal necklaces

Reducing plastic usage is crucial for environmental sustainability. Here are some effective methods to achieve this goal:

  1. Carry reusable bags: Bring your own cloth or jute bags when shopping to avoid using plastic bags provided by stores.
  2. Say no to single-use plastics: Refuse plastic straws, cutlery, and disposable water bottles. Instead, opt for alternatives like stainless steel straws, bamboo cutlery, and reusable water bottles.
  3. Use eco-friendly packaging: Choose products with minimal or plastic-free packaging. Look for alternatives like glass, cardboard, or biodegradable materials.
  4. Bring your own containers: When buying food or takeaway meals, bring your own containers to avoid using plastic packaging. Many stores and restaurants are open to accommodating this request.
  5. Choose loose produce: Buy fruits and vegetables that are not pre-packaged in plastic. Opt for loose produce and use mesh or fabric bags to carry them.
  6. Support local markets: Visit local farmers’ markets or bulk stores that offer unpackaged products. These establishments often encourage sustainable practices and provide options to reduce plastic waste.
  7. Choose sustainable alternatives: Look for products made from eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, glass, or stainless steel. Replace plastic items like toothbrushes, razors, and food storage containers with sustainable alternatives.
  8. Recycle and dispose responsibly: Follow proper waste management practices and ensure that recyclable materials are appropriately sorted and recycled. Dispose of plastic waste responsibly to prevent it from ending up in landfills or waterways.
  9. Educate and spread awareness: Raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastic usage among your friends, family, and community. Encourage others to adopt sustainable practices and reduce plastic consumption.
  10. Advocate for policy changes: Support initiatives and campaigns that aim to reduce plastic usage. Urge government authorities to implement and enforce regulations against single-use plastics.

By implementing these measures in our daily lives and promoting conscious consumerism, we can contribute to reducing plastic usage and protecting the environment for future generations.