21 February, 2024

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ZeroPlastic Global Movement: A Beacon Of Hope In The Battle Against Plastic Pollution

By Vipula Wanigasekera

Dr. Vipula Wanigasekera

Plastic pollution has emerged as a global crisis, threatening the health of our planet, its ecosystems, and biodiversity. As our oceans choke with plastic debris, and landfills overflow with non-biodegradable waste, the urgent need for action becomes undeniable. 

This piece explores the global plastic issue, the dire need for movements like ZeroPlastic Global Movement, and why governments and international bodies, such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), should lend their support to this vital cause.

Plastic has become an integral part of modern life, revolutionizing industries and improving convenience. However, its widespread use has led to dire environmental consequences. 

Plastic production has surged exponentially, with over 360 million tons produced annually worldwide, a figure that is expected to double in the next two decades if unchecked. The magnitude of this issue is staggering, and its impacts are far-reaching.

1. Biodiversity: Plastic pollution poses a grave threat to biodiversity. Marine life, in particular, suffers immensely as plastic waste clogs oceans, entangles wildlife, and disrupts ecosystems. Countless species of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals ingest or become ensnared by plastic debris, often leading to injury or death. Moreover, microplastics, tiny plastic particles less than 5mm in size, enter the food chain, affecting organisms at various levels and ultimately posing health risks to humans.

2. Environmental Degradation: Plastic waste, once discarded, persists in the environment for hundreds of years. This long-lasting material accumulates in landfills, rivers, and oceans, releasing toxic chemicals and contributing to soil and water pollution. Plastic waste also mars landscapes, harms agricultural productivity, and disrupts natural habitats.

3. Climate Change: The production of plastic is energy-intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, when plastic degrades, it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The plastic lifecycle, from production to disposal, significantly contributes to climate change, exacerbating environmental challenges.

Amid this global plastic crisis, the ZeroPlastic Global Movement has emerged as a grassroots initiative with a profound impact. Operating in 130 countries and driven by 9,000 undergraduate volunteers, the movement is a testament to the power of collective action. Here’s why the work of ZeroPlastic is indispensable:

1. Raising Awareness: The movement plays a pivotal role in raising awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution. Through educational programs, workshops, and social media campaigns, they engage communities and inspire individuals to make sustainable choices.

2. Cleanup Campaigns: ZeroPlastic organizes large-scale cleanup campaigns that remove tons of plastic waste from the environment. These efforts not only mitigate immediate environmental damage but also serve as a visible reminder of the ongoing crisis, galvanizing support for change.

3. Advocacy and Policy Influence: The movement actively engages with governments, businesses, and local communities to advocate for stronger regulations and policies to combat plastic pollution. Their grassroots efforts have the potential to drive change at the highest levels.

Why Governments and International Bodies Should Support ZeroPlastic Movement

1. Global Cooperation: Plastic pollution transcends borders, making it a global issue that requires coordinated action. Governments and international bodies like the UN and EU have a critical role to play in facilitating cooperation among nations to tackle this problem effectively. Supporting grassroots movements like ZeroPlastic can foster collaboration and knowledge sharing on a global scale.

2. Amplifying Impact: ZeroPlastic’s efforts are commendable but limited by their resources and capacity. With governmental and international support, they can expand their reach, conduct more extensive cleanup campaigns, and engage in more influential advocacy work. This can result in a significantly greater impact in the fight against plastic pollution.

3. Setting an Example: Governments and international organizations supporting the ZeroPlastic movement can set a powerful example for the private sector and individuals. By prioritizing sustainability and actively participating in solutions, they can inspire broader change in consumer behavior, corporate practices, and policy development.

4. Environmental and Economic Benefits: Addressing plastic pollution not only benefits the environment but also has economic advantages. By reducing plastic pollution, governments can lower the costs associated with cleanup and waste management. Additionally, fostering sustainable alternatives can drive innovation and job creation in the green economy.

The global plastic crisis is a dire threat to biodiversity, ecosystems, and the planet’s future. Movements like ZeroPlastic, originating in Sri Lanka and now spanning 130 countries, offer a glimmer of hope in this battle. Through their dedication, awareness campaigns, cleanup initiatives, and advocacy work, they are making a tangible difference. However, to effectively combat plastic pollution, they need the support of governments and international bodies like the UN and EU.

*Writer is former Sri Lankan Diplomatic Envoy, Head of Tourism Authority and Convention Bureau , Academic, Wellness expert and Healer through Meditation and Reiki Therapy. He can be contacted through vwanigasekera@gmail.com) Also refer https://zeroplasticmovement.org/ and https://www.zeroplastic.lk/

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Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    Movements like ZeroPlastic, originating in Sri Lanka and now spanning 130 countries…’

    I didn’t know SL was a pioneer in reducing the usage of plastics. UK started taxing plastic carrier bags some years ago & since then, we have been taking our own reusable carrier bags to shops but I have not seen that in SL in the last few years I have been there. In fact, discarded polythene food packet wrappers & bags were all over street corners, drains & by the wayside. A tax on plastics would discourage usage as in developed countries but will the govt. agree because it would upset the manufacturers? By the way, who is the biggest manufacturer of plastic bags?

    • 0
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      R-Uk
      I suspect that the wording is misleading.
      The said ‘ZeroPlastic’ movement perhaps originated in Sri Lanka and movements like it span 130 countries.
      I checked the website and amid impressive claims there is no sign of any of the claimed 130 countries.

      • 0
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        SJ

        It certainly is misleading because I am not aware of such a ‘zero plastic movement’ that originated in SL in any European country. Developed countries are aware & serious about reducing non biodegradable products. There are volunteer groups who clean coastal areas & beaches frequented by tourists but on a national scale, Ireland introduced a tax on plastic shopping bags around 2005 & so did UK soon after. Almost all plastic products, including vehicle parts, in Europe are recyclable, even household trash have to be separated for recycling, It is illegal to dispose chemical waste & non bio degradable liquids, such as engine oil, coolant, down drains but have to be disposed of at collection centers. I maybe wrong but I am not aware of any such effective recycling campaign in SL. It is admirable for the author to promote awareness among the less educated but before asking for international assistance, it is up to the govt. to show initiative.

    • 1
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      Raj,
      “By the way, who is the biggest manufacturer of plastic bags?”
      No idea, but, like the biggest manufacturer of sanitaryware, surely politically connected.

      • 0
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        OC

        Years ago, Nawaloka had the monopoly but there may be others now. I doubt very much any govt. would dare displease an industrial giant how polluting it may be to the environment. Anyway, SL has a solution as far as plastic shopping bags are concerned. Didn’t some enterprising boffin develop a formula for extracting diesel from polyethene bags?

        • 0
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          Raj,
          “Didn’t some enterprising boffin develop a formula for extracting diesel from polyethene bags?”
          Not exactly. It was that enterprising political chameleon Champika Ranawaka in support of MR’s 2010 election campaign . He used public money to regurgite an old and impractical process, of which nothing further was heard.

  • 2
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    Dear Vipula,
    thanks for the article.
    :
    Some European countries, including Germany, are more adept at creating new jobs in the recycling sector than ever before. They invest a lot of money to protect the environment. That way they save some money on cleaning and recycling.
    .
    During football and other entertainment sessions, stadiums are left to fill up with used plastic bottles, reimbursing the Germans 0.15 to 0.25 euros per bottle. In general, Europeans are very careful after wrapping plastic wrap. Even a 3-year-old child shouts that parents are breaking the law. can you imagine
    . It is built into their upbringing. They don’t spit everywhere like our people. I am talking about how I once spat at the bus stand in Sri Lanka. They make “red batik like on the floor” so that we are forced to point out places as we move from a to b. Bus passengers are helpless. Bus drivers spit through bus shutters and passengers imitate it. I observed these practices and felt how uncivilized our people are.
    .
    This is also in an era where people have been forced to think that any spitting or body rest can spread germs like a tsunami after Covid. People seem not to have improved their manners even an inch.

    tbc

  • 2
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    cont.
    .
    2
    The majority of bottle collectors are foreigners (Romanians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Eastern Europeans, etc.) and poor income earners in society. Some of them are students who find it difficult to pay their fees.

    It helps in keeping places clean as rest stops, bus stops, railway stations, garbage bins are taken away from bottle collectors. All discount supermarkets have vending machines to give you your cash back. See how good they are at keeping the environment clean.

    Even Buddhist temples in our motherland, SL are not kept clean today by our idiots who depend on free food from laymen. Sinhala buddhist monks abuse their sanga-life for their hidden propesities (child molestation and other sex crimes). Some temples let grow wild plants and leaves are strewn in front of the door steps, but they hang around on smart phones doing nothing and wasting time. Young monks look as if they just come from fitness centres (body builders).

    I think labor is abused in our country more than any other country in the world.
    .
    Many people do not work or are willing to work but enjoy gossiping around.
    .
    When I questioned why the temple could not be cleaned by their own, some monks verbally assaulted me. One violent monk louded at me asking to learn to respect “Sinhala Buddhist monks”, I kept silent and left the place.
    .
    Since then I have completely stopped my mission of offering them free food. that’s enough. Instead, I now pet street dogs and old people in homes.

    Tbc

  • 2
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    cont.
    3
    .

    Collecting empty plastic bottles has become a really lucrative job for low income earners who find it hard to find empty bottle cans these days.

    At the same time, stadium owners save a lot of money on stadium cleaning.
    This is a very successful project introduced by German beverage companies in the last 7 years. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this in London when I last visited them in May.

    To my knowledge this does not yet happen in Holland and Switzerland unfortunately. However, they will follow the Germans. Today’s Germans are more environmentally friendly than other Europeans

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