Today is Global World Environment Day. Though we should be aware of our impact on the environment every day, today is our chance to look at the statistics, make personal changes and commit to a greener lifestyle.

The U.N. General Assembly in 1972 designated June 5 World Environment Day to unite the world against environmental threats.

Collectively, we are responsible for 229,000 tons of plastic in the world’s oceans each year. With a staggering statistic like that, it’s no surprise this year’s theme is plastic pollution. This year the message is for individuals and businesses to contribute to a circular economy and rid the world of single-use plastic. This means we create useable items out of whatever we discard.

For example, companies like Circular & Co. are on a mission to equip us all with reusable water bottles. Each of its bottles is made from 14 disposed plastic water bottles. When they reach end of life, they are also recyclable. And there are many other companies popping up to combat plastic waste.

According the gDiapers, more than 300,000 plastic diapers end up in the ocean or landfills every minute. The company’s solution is a plastic-free disposable diaper that is collected after use and composted into soil.

But it’s not just on us individuals. Sure, we can choose to deal with companies that are sustainability focused and choose circular-economy options, but there are a lot of conglomerate giants out there that contribute to the plastic problem.

According to Break Free From Plastic’s 2022 brand audit, the top three contributors — Pepsi, Nestle and Coca-Cola — earned the first-place plastic trophy for the fifth consecutive year.

This is why the U.N. General Assembly in 2022 met with delegates from 147 countries to begin work on a global plastic treaty. The goal is to end plastic pollution by 2030.

IMAGE: Unsplash

But we don’t have to wait until 2030, and we don’t have to embark on a sustainable start-up. We can begin today on World Environment Day to do our part in ending plastic pollution.

Here are a few ways individuals can make a difference:

  • Say good-by to single-use plastic sandwich bags and cart your lunch to work in reusable containers.
  • Purchase a reusable water bottle rather than drink from disposable bottle.
  • Use cloth grocery bags.
  • For bin liners, choose bio-degradable options.
  • When ordering take-out, choose companies with recyclable packaging or returnable dishware.
  • Buy a reusable straw.
  • Drive an electric vehicle (if you can afford to).

A 2023 study by an Indonesian team suggests that microplastics — tiny bits of plastic measuring less than 5 millimeters — are everywhere, including our bodies. The threat to our health is serious.

“Living organisms can accumulate microplastics in cells and tissues, which results in threats of chronic biological effects and potential health hazards for humans including body gastrointestinal disorders, immunity, respiratory problem, cancer, infertility, and alteration in chromosomes,” the researchers say.

The paper was published in Science Direct.

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