June 5th marked World Environment Day but rather than a celebratory occasion, concerned citizens and environmentalists braced themselves for the ugly statistics that would be reiterated to reflect the grim circumstances in which the Earth and its inhabitants are currently surviving. Indeed, even the most mighty and magnificent of creatures have succumbed to the brutality that results from careless human behaviour. Only two days prior to World Environment Day, a pilot whale in Thailand was killed by 80 plastic bags found lining its stomach, due to which it was unable to feed — similar to how albatrosses are dying on a plastic-covered island off the Pacific Ocean. This is all a result of irresponsible and unaware humans who, like millions across the world, give no second thought to the degree of detriment their use of plastic causes. Bans and taxes levied on the use of plastic in 60 countries are nascent and have a long way to travel before making inroads on undoing the damage humans have caused.
According to a United Nations report on the subject, 79 per cent of plastic produced is thrown away, 12 per cent incinerated, and a scant nine per cent recycled. As Pakistanis, we cannot take these figures lightly. We are just as culpable as the rest of the world, if not more, for our infatuation with the use of plastic. According to one report, Pakistan is among the top seven countries on the long-term climate risk index. Plastic pollution contributes to climate change but there is little awareness among our citizens about environmental protection and the damage plastic causes. Many people reheat and reuse low-grade plastic bottles containing contaminants that harm human reproductive health, such as bisphenol A. Additionally they purchase plastic items regularly as plastic offers cheap alternatives. Considering we are an impoverished and uninformed nation, the corporate sector, Ministry of Environment, and the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency need to take on a responsible role and reduce plastic production altogether.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2018.