We are celebrating World Environment Day on the 5th of June 2023 and the theme for this year will focus on the solutions to plastic pollution.

Plastic has many valuable uses but we have become used to the single-use of plastic products which has severe environmental, social, economic and health consequences. One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world and five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes – used just once and then thrown away.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, plastic waste was relatively manageable because only a small amount of plastic was produced, while today this has become more challenging since we produce about 400 million tonnes of plastic every year. If the production of plastic continues at this trend, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1,100 million tonnes by 2050.

What happens to plastic waste?

The majority of plastic waste gets carried from deep inland to the sea through lakes and rivers, making them the major contributors to ocean pollution. Because of plastic’s durability and resistance to degradation, most plastic items never fully disappear, and they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These smaller pieces called microplastics can enter the human body through inhalation and absorption and accumulate in organs.

Less than 10% of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated globally so far has been recycled meaning millions of tonnes of plastic waste are lost to the environment as they end up in landfills, where it may take up to 1,000 years to degrade thus leaking potentially toxic substances into the soil and water.

What can we do to reduce our contribution to plastic waste?

The most common type of plastic waste found in the environment are those of cigarette butts, because their filters contain tiny plastic filters that we don’t even know about. The next most common items are food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, and stirrers. Many of us uses these products every day without even thinking about where they might end up.

We can all make a big impact by making small changes to how we use and dispose plastic.

  1. Prevent – Stop plastic at its source
  • Say no to disposable plastic cutlery, plastic straws and other single-use plastics.
  • Avoid plastics that cannot be recycled if other alternatives exist.
  • Avoid products with excess or unnecessary plastic packaging.
  • Adopt reusable items such as water bottles, shopping bags, keep cups and travel cutlery.
  1. Recycle – Take responsibility for your plastics
  • Look for the National Recycling Forum Label (NRF) on your product. It will tell you if the packaging of the product is recyclable or not.
  • Look for free container deposit schemes where you can deposit your used containers. These schemes help to keep plastic out of landfill.

As we celebrate World Environment Day, let us think of how we are disposing our plastic products and where they end up if we do not dispose of them correctly.

For any assistance on understanding how to #Beatplasticpollution contact Jan Nel at