World Environment Day 2023 has #BeatPlasticPollution as its theme of the year. Plastic's ease of use and discard has us under its spell, while it wreaks havoc on the environment and people. Can we hope to wean ourselves from this global habit?
Dead herrings seen trapped in a plastic consumer packaging net on May 3, 2023, near Pietarsaari, in Finland during the late spring as the sea ice is melting slowly. Image: OLIVIER MORIN / AFP
Let's face it, plastic is as ubiquitous now as our own selves. The material—like a lot of the inventions of human ingenuousness beset by paradox—is toxic to the environment and to humans. It is everywhere, in the clogged landfills, leached oceans and inside of us, through the food and drinks we ingest and the air we breathe. Absurd though it may seem, we can only hope—against our own embrace of its ‘use and discard’ daily habit—that plastic pollution will be history, someday soon.Families of the fishing community make their way through plastic waste on shore to offer prayers to the Sea God on Narli Poornima, to mark the beginning of the annual fishing season at Colaba, Mumbai on August 11, 2022. Image: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty ImagesA child stands in front of a light art installation titled the Plastic Whale along Marina Bay Sands event plaza in Singapore on June 1, 2022. Image: Roslan RAHMAN / AFPAlso read: Rural India's exploding plastic problem Japanese artisans' lifelike food samples made of plastic, a common sight in Japan’s restaurant counters, are displayed at an exhibition hosted by the Iwasaki Group in Tokyo, Japan. Image: Kazuhiro NOGI / AFPFresh carrots are displayed in clear plastic bags at the Fruit Logistica Fair in Berlin, covering different sectors of the fresh produce business and providing a picture of the latest innovations, products and services at every link in the international supply chain, Germany, on April 5, 2022. Image: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFPAlso read: Plastic-eating fungi found in Chinese coastal salt marshes Wild elephants eat garbage containing plastic waste at a dump in Sri Lanka's eastern district of Ampara on June 3, 2023. Sri Lanka is set to launch a nationwide clean-up of plastic waste ahead of new laws banning the sale of single-use plastics after a spate of deaths of elephants and deer in the island's northeast. Image: Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFPAttendees sit in a plastic bubble to listen to an audiobook, in Lyon, France, during the 18th edition of the Quai du Polar festival, on April 3, 2022. Image: JEFF PACHOUD / AFPAlso read: Banyan Nation: Climate warriors chipping away at India's plastic problem A Rohingya refugee mason builds a wall with empty plastic bottles in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh on August 9, 2022. Image: Munir uz Zaman / AFPA range of plastic ducks dressed up as the Queen and wearing a crown are displayed on a window shop in Edinburgh, a day after Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. England, September 9, 2022. Image: Paul ELLIS / AFPAlso read: Ten things to know about waste Ugandan baseball player Dennis Kasumba, 18, who dreams of becoming Uganda’s first US Major League Baseball player uses car tires and plastic bottles filled with water for his daily morning weight training at his home in Gayaza, Uganda, on May 22, 2023. Image: Badru Katumba / AFPA health worker makes a heart with her gloved hands through a plastic screen while waiting to take swab samples from people in the Jing'an district of Shanghai, China on May 31, 2022, as the city prepares to lift more curbs after two months of heavy-handed restrictions. Image: Hector RETAMAL / AFPAlso read: Rise in ocean plastic pollution 'unprecedented' since 2005 A costumed, roving hawker sells inflatable plastic figures in the main crossing at Jing'an district in Shanghai, China on February 22, 2023. Image: Hector RETAMAL / AFPDressed in plastic bags, 49-year-old Senegalese environmental activist Modou Fall, known as "Plastic Man" walks on the streets alerting people to the dangers of using single-use plastics in Dakar, Senegal on April 05, 2023. Image: Annika Hammerschlag/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesAlso read: Is biodegradable better? Making sense of 'compostable' plastics During a VeryNile upcycling workshop, female employees try out a new embroidery pattern with accessories made from recycled plastic on September 26, 2022, in Cairo, Egypt. The VeryNile initiative is an effort to develop sustainable recycling programs through cooperation with several companies and local stakeholders. Image: Fadel Dawod/Getty ImagesCitrus trees are covered in plastic bags to protect them from Huanglongbing, a citrus tree disease at an orchard in Arcadia, Florida, USA on March 14, 2023. Image: CHANDAN KHANNA / AFPAlso read: Ricron Panels: Creating recyclable construction sheets from low-value packaging waste A worker walks past a replica Oscar statue covered in plastic sheeting, along the red carpet arrivals area, ahead of the 95th Academy Awards, in Hollywood, California, on March 10, 2023. Image: Stefani Reynolds / AFP