Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Environment Day which is a flagship day to raise global awareness of the importance of safeguarding the environment. World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to fall on June 5 every year. On this day, the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness and encourages action for the environment by focusing on a specific theme. It is celebrated in a different country every year under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). This year’s host was Cote d’Ivoire in partnership with the Netherlands and UNEP. The theme of World Environment Day 2023 was Solutions to Plastic Pollution.
Plastic pollution poses an existential threat to the environment and to living creatures in the air, on land and in the water. More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced every year worldwide. More than half of it is designed to be used only once and a paltry 10% of it is recycled. The rest of it is normally dumped into landfills or in water bodies such as lakes, rivers and the ocean.
Excessive plastic in the environment impacts our health, the environment, and the climate. UNEP has warned that unless stern measures are taken, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by the year 2050. Microbic plastics are, therefore, already present in the food that we eat, the water that we drink and the air that we breathe.
The United Nations and Governments across the globe are concerned. So are the young people. Therefore, on June 5, 2023, the world witnessed multi-sectoral efforts to combat excessive use of plastics and various strategies by young people to campaign against further environmental damage. In Kuwait, UNEP has partnered with the private sector, the Scuba diving team of Kuwait and a non-profit organization to recycle plastic and integrate it into the circular economy.
Zambian Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Hon. Collins Nzovu, stated at a commemorative event that: “The Government notes with concern that the high increasing levels of environmental degradation and the problem of plastic pollution in particular presents serious development issues that are negatively affecting the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development.”
The vibrant youths of Zambia also rose to the occasion. The Zambia Youth Statement supported by ActionAid contained a myriad of proposals to assist combat plastic pollution. The Statement concluded as follows: “World Environment Day 2023 presents an opportunity for us to reflect on the state of waste management in Zambia and take decisive action to beat plastic pollution. As the youth, we pledge our commitment to be agents of change and work hand in hand with the government, civil society organizations, and international partners to implement sustainable solutions and create a cleaner, greener future for Zambia. Let us stand united today and every day to beat plastic pollution and safeguard our environment for generations to come.”