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Plastic is termed the most durable and lightweight material, but the popularity of plastic is dropping due to its increasing price and pollution across the world. Plastic pollution in the world is increasing rapidly, and it is highly affecting vulnerable communities disproportionately. These communities have to bear the significant impact of environmental degradation, and now it has become essential to create awareness about this among the people. Plastic pollution has impacted human rights, health, and well-being. As per the reports generated by UNEP, the world is neglecting Environmental Justice and the Impacts of Plastic pollution.
One of the report’s authors, Juliano Calil said, “The impact of plastics on vulnerable populations goes well beyond inefficient and sometimes non-existing waste management systems. It starts with issues related to oil extraction, through toxic environments and greenhouse gas emissions, and it even impacts water distribution policies.”
According to the UNEP report, “As consumer consciousness about the hazards of plastic pollution grows, more systemic issues have come to light. Factors of convenience intermingle with concerns over how peers may perceive the use of substitute materials, hygiene, and affordability. In much of the developing world, the resources to pursue alternatives or to manage plastic wastes more effectively are simple, not present, and citizens are left waiting for structural and regulatory changes.”
People who live near plastic production and waste sites are the ones affected the most by plastic pollution. Today, 90% of the pollution in the oceans consists of plastic capable enough to endanger marine life. It is also a significant threat to human health. Plastic in oceans does not get decomposed easily; it stays for hundreds of years. Marine or ocean animals can eat it or can get entangled in it. Due to nature’s food chain, people who consume fish are at high risk.
The aim of the study about the impact of plastic pollution on the marginalized group is to empower the communities that are affected the most by plastic waste.
According to Inger Andersen (the Executive Director of UNEP), “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 report shows how plastic production and environmental injustices are linked to each other. In areas such as deforestation for road building, the displacement of indigenous people to conduct oil drilling, contamination of potable water by fracking operations to extract natural gas can cause plastic pollution.
As per the report, Plastic pollution leaves severe impacts on marginalized populations. The impacts exist at all the stages of the production cycles beginning from raw material extraction and manufacturing to consumption and disposal. Plastic pollution affects the livelihoods of the people who are relying on marine resources. The plastic pollution in the ocean causes health issues for people who consume seafood with toxic microplastic in them.
Women are also at risk because of more exposure to plastic at home and feminine care products. This can put women at a high risk of miscarriages and cancer.
In this pandemic, The problem of loss of biodiversity and climate change has taken place. Also, Covid-19 has aggravated plastic waste to become a significant part of the global pollution crisis. This represents the triple emergency to tackle using potent and practical action plans for solving the problems.
The government needs to take preventive actions by prioritizing the needs of those disproportionately affected by plastic pollution. The action must be taken at multiple levels. There must be techniques to monitor plastic waste, better study of health impacts due to plastic pollution. The government should invest more in making the waste management system more efficient.
Also, single-use plastics should be banned, and people should be encouraged to reduce, recycle and reuse plastic products. There should be efforts to protect the interests of the socially, economically, and politically marginalized group of the community.
You can eliminate plastic pollution only by keeping the plastic away from the waste stream. You can start the process by reusing plastic bags, bottles, containers more & more.
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