This month is Plastic Free July which is celebrated across the globe. It encourages millions of people to be part of the solution to the single-use plastic waste problem at home, work, school, and even at restaurants. So, we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities.
The global coronavirus pandemic heightened the plastic pollution problem, as it necessitated the use of unmanageable levels of biomedical single-use plastic protective equipment (PPE), which played significant roles in protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic at a great cost to the environment.
The Ministerial Conference on Marine litter and Plastic Pollution stated that
“plastic production and consumption are accelerating at an unprecedented rate, partly due to new realities including the discarding of medical supplies, personal protective equipment and other anti-COVID-19 products around the world. The impacts, particularly from the unsound management of plastic waste, are manifested in all environmental compartments, most prominently the marine environment. In view of the nature of global supply chains and the flow of plastic pollution in the environment, the challenge is transboundary in scope. No country can adequately address its different aspects alone. There is a need to establish a coherent and effective framework to promote exchanges and cooperation, while keeping in mind the importance of a level playing field, in order to protect the environment and human health. […]
A global agreement is therefore needed with a clear vision and ambitious objectives and measures to achieve the reduction and progressive elimination of direct and indirect discharges of plastics into the environment. The agreement should be based on the precautionary approach and recognize the devastating impact of plastic pollution on ecosystems and livelihoods. Such an agreement would cover international gaps, complementing and enhancing existing instruments and avoiding duplication of efforts. […]
It is anticipated that negotiations will commence and an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution will be established at UNEA-5.2. Strong political momentum and will are needed in order to proceed rapidly and agree on ambitious content. At the same time, urgent actions by UN Member States and other stakeholders are needed and should not be delayed.”
According to research, the current rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse. Because a high number of potentially concerning chemicals are used in everyday plastic products that are often toxic to aquatic life, cause cancer, or damages specific organs, points out Rebecca Herbert, Expert Contributor to Tiredearth.com.
The United States is the world’s biggest generator of plastic waste, with the highest number of coronavirus patients in the world. India is the second-ranking country concerning coronavirus patients and is responsible for dumping the largest amounts of plastics into the ocean. China is the second-biggest plastic polluter, with 70,700 tons, trailed by Indonesia, with 56,300 tons, followed by Brazil, with nearly 38,000 tons of plastic waste dumped into the ocean per year, according to a study by British packaging company Raja.
Under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes1 and their Disposal (“Basel Convention”),
“Clinical and related wastes; that is wastes arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, or similar practices, and wastes generated in hospitals or other facilities during the investigation or treatment of patients, or research projects.”
...may apply to transboundary shipments of COVID-19 related PPE medical wastes ( A4020). In 2019, plastic litter was added to the Basel Convention, making it the first global set of rules on plastic litter, points out Jen Allan, Ph.D. in a report titled “How to Regulate Our Waste-Full World2.” Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions will hold a one-week online meeting during July 26-30, 2021, to ensure the continued operation of all three conventions.
To raise awareness concerning the environmental impact of the use of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, artists Selva Ozelli, Semine Hazar, Fatma Kadir, and Ilhan Sayin launched #Tiredearth #Maskuary Campaign art shows, which made their debut at the London Climate Action Week with the support of CUHK Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change. These art shows were also published by the Museums for Future as well as at the International Coral Reefs Symposium 2021 Art Gallery during the Pollution Free month of July.
|UN Environment Programme, Basel Convention: Controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal|
How to Regulate Our Waste-Full World (pdf), Jen Allan, Ph.D. July 2021