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IT IS estimated that five trillion plastics are purchased, used once and thrown away every day, worldwide. PICTURE: AFRICAN STAND. Right, plastics pose biggest threat to oceans. PICTURE: DW

Let’s discard use of plastics

ZAMBIA yesterday joined other countries in commemorating World Environment Day, which falls on June 5 every year.
On this day, countries the world over reflect on the importance of protecting the environment from any harm and devise plausible ways to contribute to environmental conservation. This year’s World Environment Day was observed under the theme, ‘Solutions to plastic pollution’, which reminded all stakeholders of the need to reduce or completely do away with the use of various forms of plastic. The theme also reminded stakeholders of the urgent need to take action towards reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic waste. Governments, businesses and individuals worldwide must combine efforts to find innovative solutions to the problem of plastic pollution. In Zambia, Government has in collaboration with different stakeholders taken several steps to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability. One of the most significant steps Government has taken over the years has been the implementation of statutory instrument (SI) 65 of 2018. This SI bans the use of plastic carrier bags and plastic-related materials below 30 microns in thickness, and supermarkets have complied with the ban and give customers reusable carrier bags albeit at a minimal charge. Although this prohibition has somehow helped reduce the amount of plastic waste in the country and encouraged the use of reusable bags, many people have continued using plastic bags and dispose them indiscriminately. Despite the ban, the sale and use of plastic carrier bags have continued particularly among grocery shop owners and market traders. This has been harming the environment and may alter habitats and natural processes, reduce the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to climate change, and directly affect many people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities and social well-being. Plastic production and consumption contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, devalue marine ecosystems, and choke the wildlife that makes our oceans so diverse. Plastic is toxic and can kill wildlife or make animals more susceptible to disease. Animals can become trapped and injured by plastic, making it difficult for some species to live and breed naturally, leading to depletions in populations. Once released into the environment, plastic waste leaches toxic chemicals which kill wildlife and contaminates the ecosystem. Marine animals eat the plastic, which compromises their health and spreads these noxious chemicals through the food chain. Plastic carrier bags are difficult and costly to recycle, and most of them end up on landfill sites where they take around 300 years to photodegrade. They break down into tiny lethal particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them. Therefore, as Zambia commemorated World Environment Day yesterday, it was time for Zambians to reflect and stop abrogating the SI that bans the use of plastic bags. We do not need law enforcement officers to be moving around whipping whoever they find carelessly throwing plastic waste, be it on the street, shop, office or even home. By avoiding the use of any form of plastic and careless disposal, we will be taking care of the needs of future generations. We should always resist the temptation of satisfying our current needs at the expense of those for future generations if we are to contribute to sustainable development. On its part, Government has introduced policies to encourage the use of eco-friendly materials in packaging and has urged businesses to adopt sustainable, environment-friendly practices such as recycling. Recycling presents a valuable opportunity for job creation and revenue generation, and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators.