Home Environment Earth Day 2024: Join the Fight for a Plastic-Free Planet

Earth Day 2024: Join the Fight for a Plastic-Free Planet

by Jahnvi Vyas
Earth Day

Did you know that each person on Earth consumes plastic equivalent to almost one credit card’s weight every week? Ever wondered why this is such a critical issue? Well, once plastic is out there, it virtually stays forever, posing serious threats to our vital organs and overall health.

This Earth Day, the theme is “Planet vs Plastic.” Why? Because few things pose a greater threat to the survival of our planet than the relentless, non-biodegradable nature of human-made plastics.

This year, on April 22nd, Earth Day highlights the urgent need to address fast fashion, advocate for a robust UN treaty on plastic pollution, accelerate the phase-out of single-use plastics, and promote widespread awareness of the health risks associated with plastic consumption.

Plastic at a Glance

Earth Day
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Plastic hasn’t always had a negative reputation. It revolutionised industries like machinery, healthcare, and defense during World War II. However, what began as a miraculous solution to numerous challenges has evolved into a global concern. Why?

There are two key factors at play here. First, plastic doesn’t naturally decompose and persists in the environment for extended periods. Second, the widespread adoption of single-use plastics far exceeds what’s necessary or sustainable over the years.

Plastic was never meant to be single use. It was made to last longer.
It was meant to be used for equipment and systems that needed to be full-proof and ever lasting.

Today, plastic pervades every aspect of our lives—from our dinner plates to the depths of the Antarctic wilderness. It has truly become ubiquitous, rivalling even the omnipresence of bacteria. When it comes to the scale and peril of plastic pollution, few adversaries are as formidable as microplastics infiltrating our food and water supply, or the mountains of disposable plastics threatening marine ecosystems.

This Earth Day 2024, the focus is on combating plastics, with a bold aim to reduce all plastic manufacturing by 60% by 2040. The battle cry of “Planet vs. Plastics” is fitting. Achieving this target is challenging enough, made even more daunting by greenwashing and individuals who decide to ignore the crisis.

A Synopsis of Earth Day’s Origins

How did the idea of celebrating Earth on a day start?

Earth Day
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After an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and environmental activist Denis Hayes launched the first Earth Day in 1970. This event mobilized over 20 million Americans, marking the beginning of what was once a small movement that has now grown into a global phenomenon.

Earth Day has evolved into a worldwide movement, engaging an estimated one billion people across more than 190 nations. It was instrumental in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the enactment of pivotal environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

What is wrong with Plastic?

The issue with plastic lies not in the material itself, but in how we use and often overuse it. Plastic is a remarkable byproduct of human ingenuity that has revolutionized technology. It has enhanced our lives, from our everyday gadgets like phones and cars to essentials like toothbrushes and refrigerators, raising living standards and simplifying tasks.

Fast forward to 2024, a year marked by heatwaves, floods, water shortages, and the peak effects of climate change. Who are the major contributors? Our beloved plastic and our tendency to overconsume.

Breaking down living components yields cells; breaking down chemical entities yields atoms. Plastic, a chemical and physical marvel, is derived from fossil fuels. Unlike organic matter that decomposes, plastic persists indefinitely, merging with Earth’s ancient elements.

As plastic deteriorates, it fragments into tiny particles like microplastics and even nanoplastics, infiltrating food chains and posing hidden health risks that only manifest once they escalate.

Earth Day
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Single-use plastic items such as straws, cups, polybags and disposable cutlery clog the waterways and eventually end up in landfills or oceans. Thus, polluting the planet further.

Adverse Health Impact of Plastic

The adverse health impacts of plastic are a growing concern in today’s world. While a recent study suggests that adults ingest nearly 2,000 microplastics annually from salt alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that there is limited evidence linking microplastics to major health effects. Current research gaps prevent definitive conclusions on the likelihood of harmful consequences.

Earth Day 2024
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Nevertheless, plastic water bottles, utensils, and medical devices can release toxins into our bodies, contributing to significant health issues such as endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, reproductive problems, and cancer.

Consuming microplastics can disrupt digestive processes and cause physical irritation in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to inflammation and a range of related symptoms.

Earth Day 2024 April 22
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Still Not Convinced? Consider these Alarming Plastic-Related Facts this Earth Day:

  • One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute globally.
  • Global plastic production reached an estimated 460 million metric tons last year.
  • Approximately 75 to 199 million metric tons of plastic are currently in our oceans.
  • Each year, an estimated 9.7 trillion cigarette butts are discarded in the U.S., with 4 trillion ending up in waterways, accounting for nearly 20% of all litter.

These staggering figures underscore the urgent need for action to address the pervasive impact of plastic pollution on our health and environment.

This Earth Day, pledge to change some habits

This Earth Day, let’s commit to changing our habits and taking responsibility for our actions to combat negligence. As responsible and sustainable citizens, we can make a positive impact by adopting these simple changes:

  • Use Reusable Bottles or Mugs: Carry your own reusable bottle or mug for drinks, even when ordering take-away.
  • Bring Your Own Take-Out Container: Bring your own container or bag for take-out to avoid Styrofoam and plastic packaging.
  • Opt for Metal Lighters: Choose disposable metal lighters over plastic ones.
  • Avoid Frozen Foods: Minimise purchasing frozen foods, which often come in plastic packaging or coated cardboard.
  • Reduce Plastic Use at Home: Avoid using plastic and request restaurants to avoid plastic take-out packaging.
  • Switch to Fabric Diapers: Opt for fabric diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.
  • Make Fresh Juice: Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make fresh juice or eat whole fruits.
  • DIY Cleaning Products: Create your cleaning products to reduce toxicity and eliminate the need for plastic bottles.
Earth Day
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  • Pack Lunch in Reusable Containers: Use reusable containers and bags for packed lunches.
  • Use Replaceable Blade Razors: Choose razors with replaceable blades instead of disposable ones.
  • Say No to Plastic Straws: Avoid plastic straws; use reusable stainless steel or glass alternatives.
  • Use Reusable Produce Bags: Carry reusable produce bags to reduce single-use plastic waste.
  • Skip Gum: Many gums contain plastic; opt for alternatives or skip it altogether.
  • Choose Reusable Containers: Opt for reusable containers over single-use plastic bottles, especially for items like laundry detergent. Also for storage and bulk shopping to minimize plastic waste.

Not sure where to begin?

Not sure where to begin on your journey to reduce plastic waste? Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Starting with small daily steps can make a big difference.

Earth Day 2024

Reusable, Plastic-Free Bottles: Make it a habit to use reusable and plastic-free bottles. Consider durable stainless steel bottles such as these ones from For Vegans or Less to Zero.

Earth Day 2024

Travel guilt-free. Opt for solid and natural toiletries wrapped in biodegradable materials instead of plastic. This Attitude Plastic Free Travel Set by Big Green Smile offers a convenient solution with these concentrated bars.

Earth Day 2024

Wooden Toothbrushes: Make your mornings more eco-friendly by using toothbrushes made from wood instead of plastic. Grab a sustainable bamboo toothbrush by Ben & Anna and reduce landfill waste.

Let’s not ignore our planet. As environmentally conscious individuals, let’s join hands with people, groups, and communities to combat plastic waste and production.

Start eliminating plastic from your daily life and have a sustainable Earth Day! 🌍🌱

By Jahnvi Vyas

Hi, I am Jahnvi Vyas. I have a Master’s in environmental science and my love for nature inspires me to be a more sustainable person. I am also an editor with a passion for graphics and video editing trying to learn new things.

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