PLASTICS are part of our everyday lifestyles, and their release to the environment has become yet another serious global environmental crisis impacting ecosystems and related services.
While the proposed national environmental initiatives have a potential to reduce the magnitude of the problem, single-handedly, they will not give the much-desired result of healthy oceans and ecosystems.
Recycling initiatives are definitely the low hanging fruit and without a doubt reduce the leakage of most packaging plastic products, such as carrier bags, and other recyclable mega and macro plastic products into the environment.
However, addressing the plastic pollution crisis in its entirety has to go beyond the ‘carrier bag’ narrative. A deliberate effort should also be made towards outlawing the import, manufacture and use of all forms of other problematic plastics such as single-use (non-recyclable) plastics and deliberately manufactured tiny plastic products (microplastics).
Namibia is actively involved in the global fight against environmental pollution and has not been shy to ratify a number of global initiatives supporting environmental sustainability, including those specifically addressing plastic pollution. Commitment to the UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign and Assembly are some of the most recent and notable examples. Over and above our own National Development Plan, Namibia has also committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with SDG 14 aimed at addressing marine pollution of all kinds. Ostensibly, this is a very good thing because all these commitments supposedly complement, build on and/or echo the calls for urgent action on environmental pollution.
Nonetheless, in order to rid pollution in their own countries, other governments have pressed on with plans to completely ban other forms of problematic plastics, i.e. single use plastics products (such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, glitter and sticks for balloons) and the use of microplastics in certain consumer products.
Curbing pollution related to these types of plastics demands immediate and aggressive action. This kind of action is provisioned for under Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992. This section states that, “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.
To date, only a handful of countries have invoked this principle and announced calls to ban single use plastics and/or microplastics. Among these are the US, UK, Sweden, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxemburg and Norway. A European Union-wide call for the ban of single use plastics is also underway.
In this regard it is important to note that Namibia’s efforts to implement commitments to global initiatives against environmental degradation are an important first step but enabling effective responses to plastic pollution can protect Namibia’s ecosystems for now and the future, something that needs to be taken serious of.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015