KENYA. Nairobi: Governments across the world have been urged to adopt and increase the enforcement of bans on single-use plastics and encourage reduction, recycling and reuse of plastics.
This was one of the recommendations of a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and environmental justice non-governmental organisation, Azul titled Neglected: Environmental Justice Impacts of Plastic Pollution.
The World governments were also told to sensitize and embolden plastic pollution affected communities to act by ensuring access to an effective judicial system that follows environmental justice principles.
The environmental justice principl w include free prior informed consent (FPIC) and the right of access to information.
The report also recommend that governments expand their monitoring of plastic waste, study its health impacts, and invest in its management.
The Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Executive Director, Inger Andersen at the launch of the report said that if government give environmental justice to the communities, it would sensitize them about the risks involved in plastic pollution and how they can demand for their rights.
“Environmental justice means educating those on the frontlines of plastic pollution about its risks, including them in decisions about its production, use, and disposal, and ensuring their access to a credible judicial system.”
The Co-author, Founder and Executive Director of Azul, Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš noted that the current efforts to manage and decrease plastic pollution are inadequate to address the full scope of the probl me plastic waste causes.
“Plastic pollution is a social justice issue. Current efforts to manage and decrease plastic pollution are inadequate to address the full scope of problems it entails.
“Disparate impacts on communities , affected by plastic, at every point from production to waste, should make environmental justice customary consideration within the marine conservation field.”
Plastic Pollution Affects Communities
The report stated that plastic pollution disproportionately affects marginalized communities and communities living in close proximity to plastic production and waste sites.
This development constitutes an environmental injustice especially as the communities lack recognitions and inclusion in local decision making.
The report stated that cases of environmental injustice ranges from deforestation and displacement of Indigenous on the peoples to make way for oil extraction to the contamination of potable water by fracking fluids and waste water in the US and Sudan.
Other environmental injustices, according to the report, also include health problems among predominantly African American communities living near oil refineries in the US’s Gulf of Mexico, and the occupational hazards of about two million waste pickers in India, among many others.
Threat of Plastic Waste
Plastic waste can lead to a raft of health issues for people who consume seafood infested with toxic amicro- and nano-plastics.
COVID-19 has increased challenge of plastic waste which is a global part of the global pollution crisis.
Plastic waste which, alongside biodiversity loss and climate change, represent a triple planetary emergency that must be addressed by massive shifts in the way humanity utilizes the earth’s resources.
The report, Neglected: Environmental Justice Impacts of Plastic Pollution’ follows the UN Environment Assembly Resolution 2/11 for UNEP to further study the environmental, health and social impacts of plastic.
The report shows how plastic waste is undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG1 on no poverty, SDG2 on zero hunger, SDG14 on protecting marine ecosystems, and SDG16 on providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
What is UNEP and Azul?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global voice on the environment.
The programme provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising future generations.
Azul is an environmental justice organization working with grassroots communities to protect coasts and the ocean.