ActionAid Zimbabwe (AAZ) has joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Environment Day (WED) that is running the theme “Solutions to Plastic Pollution” with Zimbabwe’s celebrations dubbed #BeatPlasticPollutionZim, bringing attention to issues of plastic pollution and exploring alternatives to reduce plastic use to aid the fight against climate change.
Observed annually on 5 June, WED is dedicated to spreading environmental awareness and promoting environmental protection. Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is struggling with the effects of severe plastic pollution worsened by subpar refuse collection services, a lack of strong regulatory policy, and a private sector with little interest in transitioning to a low-carbon economy or a circular economy. According to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a circular economy requires responsible behaviour that encourages the 9 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, redesign, remanufacture, refurbish, repair, and refuse.
In a statement, AAZ said it acknowledges the efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) in banning polystyrene food containers as well as introducing a policy that discourages the use of single-use plastic bags. It notes that these policies alone, without commensurate awareness programs, will not yield the intended results.
AAZ, therefore, urges the GoZ to enact tighter legislation and awareness programs aimed at eliminating plastic and boosting the use of biodegradable alternatives. Zimbabwe could learn from other African countries like Kenya and Rwanda that have successfully reduced the use and dependency on plastic by 80-90% through the enactment of laws that prohibit single-use plastic bags.
AAZ notes that efforts to limit plastic use and promote biodegradable alternatives concurrently address combating pollution and contributing considerably to worldwide efforts to cut carbon emissions.
According to the report by WWF Australia (2021), the more plastic we make the more fossil fuel we need, and the more we exacerbate climate change. Moreover, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in its 2021 report titled, “NEGLECTED: Environmental Justice Impacts of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution” notes that plastic pollution disproportionately affects marginalized communities and communities near plastic production and Waste sites constituting an environmental injustice.
It is crucial to bear in mind that plastic pollution is not only harmful to the environment but is also disastrous to human health with women being more severely affected than men. Because of their biological makeup, women are more susceptible to diseases such as cancer and hypothyroidism, which are all linked to chemicals present in plastics.
Thus, AAZ urges the GoZ to:
- Tighten the legislation to reduce plastic use and complete ban on single-use plastic bags.
- Increase awareness programs that promote the use of biodegradable alternatives and reusable carrier bags.
- Invest more in the service delivery of refuse collection to ensure improved plastic management and limit its environmental impact.
- Push the corporate and industrial sectors to adopt and implement the UNEP circularity approach.