World Environment Day: solutions to plastic pollution
World Environment Day: solutions to plastic pollution
Led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and held annually on June 5 since 1973, World Environment Day is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world.

TEHRAN (Iran News) –Led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and held annually on June 5 since 1973, World Environment Day is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world.

More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 percent is recycled.

An estimated 19-23 million tons end up in lakes, rivers, and seas annually. That is approximately the weight of 2,200 Eiffel Towers altogether.

Microplastics – tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter – find their way into food, water, and air. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles per year –and many more if inhalation is considered.

Discarded or burnt single-use plastic harms human health and biodiversity and pollutes every ecosystem from mountain tops to the ocean floor.

With available science and solutions to tackle the problem, governments, companies, and other stakeholders must scale up and speed up actions to solve this crisis.

This underscores the importance of this World Environment Day in mobilizing transformative action from every corner of the world.

Plastic, a danger for climate change

Plastic is predominantly produced from oil and gas, both of which are fossil fuels. The more plastic we make, the more fossil fuel is required, and the more we intensify the climate crisis.

Also, plastic products create greenhouse gas emissions across their whole lifecycle. If no action is taken, greenhouse gas emissions caused by plastic could account for 19 percent of the Paris Agreement’s total allowable emissions in 2040 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

According to UNEP, Some 11 million tons of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040.

More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 percent by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55 percent; save governments $70 billion by 2040; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

Plastic pollution in Iran

About 185,000 tons of plastic are produced annually in the country, which cannot be returned to nature, so we must be very active in the field of collecting plastic waste and recycling them so that it can be used in other products by turning into raw materials of industries, Mehdi Khadem-Sameni, an official with the Department of Environment, has said.

The executive regulation on reducing the consumption of plastic bags was prepared and submitted to the cabinet of ministers and was approved in October 2022 in coordination with other agencies such as the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Education, and the National Standards Organization, he explained.

The regulation was drafted in 10 articles, he said, adding that the Ministry of Industry is obliged to develop a five-year plan to annually produce 20 percent of the production capacity of thin plastic bags with a thickness of less than 25 microns, replacing them with biodegradable or environmentally friendly bags.

“The Ministry of Industry in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior will prepare a guideline to reduce waste production and limit the production, distribution, and consumption of plastic bags.”

Khdem-Sameni went on to say that the ban on the free distribution of plastic bags, except for fruit shops, and the ban on the distribution of thin plastic bags with a thickness of less than 25 microns is emphasized.

Bags less than 25 microns are very thin and light, and it takes between 300 and 900 years to decompose and return to nature, depending on the type of polymer and environmental conditions, he highlighted.

“International and national studies have proven the presence of microplastics in water sources. The presence of microplastics in the air, water resources and soil causes a lot of damage to aquatic animals, living organisms, and the natural environment.”

“Several meetings are being held at the international level, and due to the environmental damage of plastics to the environment and human health, international commitments have been made in the field of banning and limiting plastic production,” he went on to say.

“There are still no permissible limits for microplastic pollutants in water, soil, and air environments, as well as national or international standards, so currently it is not possible to say how much of our environmental pollution they include, but researchers believe that the concentration of these pollutants in vital sources is increasing, and in fact, the investigation and results of such researches have led to the formation of the preliminary meetings of the plastic convention.”

President Ebrahim Raisi has highlighted the importance of environmental protection, emphasizing that the preservation of the environment is prior to every development.

Environmental protection will lead to power, security, investment, and production growth in the country, he said.

Both people and NGOs have an effective role to play in the protection of the environment, and they should be given a chance to play their role, he added.

On November 17, 2015, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, announced the general policies on the environment, emphasizing the need for comprehensive, harmonious, and organized management of vital resources based on ecological capability and sustainability, particularly by increasing capacities and appropriate legal and structural capabilities accompanied by public participation.

Time is running out, and nature is in emergency mode. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, we must halve annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Without action, exposure to air pollution beyond safe guidelines will increase by 50 percent within the decade and plastic waste flowing into aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040.

We need urgent action to address these pressing issues.

  • source : Tehrantimes