Nearly 50 years ago, on 22 April 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.
At the time, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.
Ecological awareness was growing around the world, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly. In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.
Earth Day is now a global event each year, and the Earth Day Network (the organization that leads Earth Day) estimates that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.
Ending Plastic Pollution
Most of us think of Earth Day as a day to plant a tree or spend some time outside. But it’s a day of global awareness, too. This year’s Earth Day theme focuses on mobilizing the world to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics.
As part of Earth Day 2018 (April 22), Earth Day Network has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce the waste.
Plastics are some of the most commonly littered items in the world. but they are so useful and have made our lives much easier. We can carry our purchases from the store, stay dry in the rain, store things easily and securely, and preserve perishable food. Plastics are present in furniture, construction materials, cars, appliances, electronics and countless other things that we use every single day.
9.1 billion U.S. tons of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced around the world to date, generating 6.9 billion U.S. tons of plastic waste, and only 9 percent has been recycled. And, the production of plastic is predicted to increase three times in the next 25 years.
“Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge. We can see plastics floating in our rivers, ocean, and lagoons, littering our landscapes and affecting our health and, the future of billions of children and youth. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution,” says Valeria Merino, Vice-President of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network.
The Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit helps consumers determine actions they can take to reduce their plastic pollution footprint. Earth Day Network’s efforts center around the 5 Rs: “Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove” actions.
“Once you have learned the benefits of embracing the 5 Rs in your daily lives,” Merino said, “we hope you will create a goal for decreasing your yearly plastic pollution.
While recycling plastic waste is important, it is not nearly enough, notes Merino. “You may be lulled into thinking it is OK to consume disposable plastic products because you plan to recycle them, but many plastics can’t be efficiently recycled and will end up in the landfill or littering the planet, even in the most remote places.” For this reason, it is much more important to focus on reducing your own level of plastic consumption,” she adds.
There are a number of things that will lessen your plastics impact:
- Ask yourself every time that you are considering buying a disposable plastic item: Do I absolutely need this? Can I use something else that I already have? Could I buy something that I can use long-term instead?
- Pick up plastic trash whenever you see it, especially in ponds, streams, rivers, and beaches.
- Look up products on the internet and choose not to buy products containing microbeads. Choose products that have natural exfoliators instead.
Another area where we can pitch in is curbing the amount of junk mail we receive. It’s a win-win for us and the planet! More than 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce junk mail, according to Earth Day Network.
Here are three ways you can stop junk mail from hitting your mail box—and stopping the direct mail companies from printing more junk mail.
- Use this website to select what catalogs you still want to receive—and which ones to stop.
- Stop pre-screened insurance and credit cards offers. You may begin the permanent Opt-Out process online at optoutprescreen.com.
- To stop direct mail (like weekly circulars and other junk mail), consumers can register at the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) consumer website. There’s a processing fee of $2 for a period of ten years.
Any of the actions here will help make the world—and your own life—that little bit better. No matter what you choose to do this Earth Day, know that a billion other people are doing something, too.
Join in the celebration, and see what good can come from a few simple actions.