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World Environment Day 2018 – Plastic: reuse or refuse

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The figures speak for themselves. In the last decade, we have produced more plastic than in all the last century; we bought one million plastic bottles per minute; we invest 17 million barrels of oil to produce bottled water per year. Human beings currently have a heavy dependence on plastic, which is present in practically all tasks we develop. Some plastics are reusable, but what about those which are not?

According to the United Nations (UN), 13 million tons of plastics are discarded and dumped the oceans each year. And these are the main cause of pollution of our ecosystem. There is every reason to devote the World Environment Day this year to raise awareness about excessive use of plastics in our day to day.

We go back to the year 1933. England. A chemical plant accident creates polyethylene, the most common plastic. Little slow to recognize their usefulness, first in Europe, then in the United States and the rest of the world. But, at the end of the 90’s, comes to light the so-called great stain of the Pacific, an accumulation of waste from plastic bottles, toys, broken electronic devices, fishing nets abandoned, etc., which is estimated to reach 87,000 tons weight, and that floats somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. And almost all this pile of trash is composed of plastic objects. Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags, in early 2000. Today, more than one dozen countries have already joined this initiative.

More than a half of the world population of sea turtles has ingested plastic on an occasion.

Therefore, which are the real consequences of these plastic waste for our environment and for ourselves? Plastic is not a biodegradable material, and is also very durable – lasts for centuries. Plastic is photodegradable, i.e. solar light can disintegrate it into ever smaller pieces which attract toxins and metals heavy to travel with the tides.

Sea turtles, for example, eat plastic bags by mistake, because that confused them with your favorite dish: jellyfish. According to a study by the University of Queensland, more than a half of the world population of turtles have eaten plastic once. Many others die trapped in oceans abandoned fishing nets. It is not uncommon the world turtle population has decreased, especially in recent years. Aware of this problem and the need to raise the population, May 23 has been set as the world turtle day .

Not only turtles suffer the consequences of this sea of plastics. It is estimated that at least 700 marine species are in contact with this landfill. And more than 17 % of these are now in danger of extinction. Not to mention the effects that the fish and shellfish contaminated can lead to human who, many cases, are the last link in the food chain and their health may be at risk of been damaged.

The UN is celebrating the international day of the environment under the slogan “#BeatPlasticPollution”.

By all this, and to raise awareness among Governments, industry and people, UN celebrates this year the International environment day under the slogan ‘A planet #BeatPlasticPollution’. This year, the country host is India, one of the most polluted and that further pollutes the planet. It came 60 % waste of plastic in the oceans. “Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed to making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place”, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of environment, forests and climate of India. Recently, India has tightened measures to control its production of disposable plastics.

Europe has already launched a measures package to reduce the production of plastic products most abound in oceans and those for which there is a sustainable and economically affordable alternative. It considers also the costs of cleaning and waste management, which will have to be borne by the same manufacturer companies.

Actually, there is also a real alternative for clean oceans which is scheduled to begin operating in mid-2018. The marine barriers of The Ocean Cleanup company, which have been running in test mode until now.

The companies work is key. To keep a commitment to the environment and beeing socially responsible is the way to maintain a healthy environment. At Abengoa, environmental sustainability is the heart of its strategy and its management is oriented to reduce the negative impact of its activity on the environment. So, let’s be optimistic!

Rocío Castro Moreno, Communication Department of Abengoa.

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