ISLAMABAD: With ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ this year’s theme, the World Environment Day, the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, will be observed today (Monday).

The theme for 2023 World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution”, which calls for urgent solutions to combat plastic pollution.

More than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled while an estimated 19 to 23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement issued on eve of the World Environment Day.

Pakistan has established the National Plastic Action Partnership to provide platform of action for plastic waste management. A major outcome of this will be the creation and implementation of a circular economy framework to reduce plastic waste and pollution.

Shehbaz emphasises unwavering commitment to combat plastic pollution; Sherry seeks world action

The country has also encouraged industries and companies to collect their plastic waste and recycle it in an environmentally safe manner on the basis of polluter pay principles and extended producer responsibility.

Pakistan is, like every nation on the planet, no stranger to plastic pollution, and the country produced 3.9 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2020, over 65 per cent of which was mismanaged. Around 18 per cent of municipal solid waste produced in the country is plastics. Only three per cent of plastic used by the manufacturing industry in Pakistan is recycled material, the UNEP says.

The UN body says it is committed to working with Pakistan on plastic pollution issue.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson recently said that UNEP would support Pakistan to develop its National Adaptation Plan.

The organisation is also fully behind the ‘Living Indus Initiative’, launched by the government, which aims to lead and consolidate initiatives to restore the ecological health of the Indus within Pakistan.

This initiative includes an element of plastic pollution, with the Zero Plastic Waste Cities along the Indus River aiming to reduce plastic ending up in the river.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, established by the UN General Assembly in 1972. Over the past five decades, the day has grown to be one of the largest global platforms for environmental outreach.

PM’s message

In a message to mark the day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif emphasised Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to combat plastic pollution and embark on a journey of reduction of plastics, APP reported.

He said the government had taken several steps to take Pakistan on the path to sustainable use of resources and emphasised the urgent need of combating plastic pollution under the global theme of “Beating Plastic Pollution”.

Mr Sharif said his government had prioritised the adoption of environment-friendly alternatives and it was actively working on the Plastics Prohibition Regulation 2023 for Islamabad Capital Territory.

This regulation, he said, would establish a comprehensive framework and timeline for phasing out single-use plastics, while also leading by example on a plan to reduce and then ban the use of single-use plastics by the entire federal government.

Minister seeks world action

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination Senator Sherry Rehman stressed the need for world action as plastic production was set to triple by 2060.

In a statement, she said that consequences of plastic pollution were intense and long term, irreversibly damaging environment and threatening the very fabric of life on earth, from the highest mountains to the deepest ocean trenches.

Ms Rehman urged world action as plastic production was set to triple by 2060, if the ‘business-as-usual’ approach continued.

She highlighted Pakistan’s commitment to promoting a sustainable circular economy for plastics by reducing waste, consumption and encouraging reuse, recycling, and material recovery.

The minister stressed the need for an incentive-driven approach to encourage consumers to change their plastic consumption habits.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2023

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