World Environment Day | Call to take action for a Plastic-Free Future!

World Environment Day | Call to take action for a Plastic-Free Future!

Mme Hela Ghzel

Mrs Hela Ghzel
Hydrogeology Expert,
Sahara and Sahel Observatory

Call to take action for a Plastic-Free Future!
World Environment Day on June 5, 2023, focuses on solutions to plastic pollution as part of the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign, and is an important opportunity to raise the community awareness about the harmful impact of plastic on our planet, by placing special emphasis on its invasion into our lives.

Plastic that used to be considered as a revolutionary innovation, has become an ever-present element in our contemporary society. Knowing the history of plastic is essential to understand how this material infiltrated our daily lives and ultimately caused a major environmental crisis. The history of plastic is rich in discoveries and developments that have largely shaped our current use of this material.

1736 - Rubber: French naturalists discovered the elastic properties of rubber, which came from plants found in the Amazon basins.

1870 - Celluloid: The Hyatt brothers invented celluloid, first artificial plastic material.

1907 - The synthetic polymer: Léo Baekeland discovered formo-phenolic resins, the first industrial synthetic polymer. These resins, known as bakelite, were used for their insulating and heat-resistant properties in manufacturing electric insulators.

1935 - Synthetic fibers: Polyamides were invented, marking a milestone in the synthetic fiber industry.

Since then, the production and use of plastic has grown like never before, providing a great deal of benefits such as lightness, durability and ease of manufacture. Plastic is found in the packaging of our products (36% of the plastic used in the world), in the fibers of our clothes (14%), in every object surrounding us (15%), in the transport we take (7%) and in the buildings we live and work in (16%) .

New discoveries continued to emerge over the years. Some of these discoveries include biodegradable plastics, shape memory plastics, conductive plastics and self-healing plastics. This growth has also led to a massive accumulation of plastic waste ranging from 2 million tons in 1950 to more than 430 million tons in 2020. Plastic production will have doubled again in 2040 and will exceed one billion tons in 2050   if no action is taken to halt this frenzy. The proliferation of plastic in our daily lives is more mismanaged than recycled and global recycling forecasts give only 9% of all plastic collected. About 46% of this waste goes to landfill, 22% becomes litter, and 17% is incinerated placing an even greater threat to our environment .Unfortunately, we can no longer live without plastic packaging, single-use products and plastic conveniences for our modern lives. With this excessive consumption, did you know that this material needs 100 to 1,000 years to degrade in nature?

Have you ever thought how many plastic bottles and bags you have bought? Unbelievable, isn’t it? It is imperative that we all take urgent and joint action to tackle plastic pollution. How? There are simple things that we can all do in our daily lives.

  • Go for sustainable alternatives such as the use of reusable bottles, fabric shopping bags, stainless steel or bamboo utensils,
  • Properly recycle waste in accordance with local selective sorting guidelines,
  • Choose products with minimal packaging and avoid over-packaged products,
  • Take bulk foods rather than individually wrapped products,
  • Avoid hygiene and cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.

On this day, let's take part in the fight against pollution by adopting these easy gestures and committing ourselves to put an end to plastic use. It is our duty to leave a healthy environment to future generations.

Join the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign and take action now to break free from plastic.