Taking a stand against plastic pollution: World Environment Day 2023 | HCLTech

Taking a stand against plastic pollution: World Environment Day 2023

The theme of World Environment Day 2023 is #BeatPlasticPollution
8.7 min. read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
8.7 min. read
Taking a stand against plastic pollution: World Environment Day 2023

June 5th marks a special day on the global calendar—World Environment Day. This year, as people and organizations gather to celebrate and raise awareness about the planet's well-being, there is an opportunity to confront one of the world’s most pressing challenges: plastic pollution. With the theme #BeatPlasticPollution, individuals and organizations can unite to combat this environmental crisis that threatens ecosystems and future generations.

Plastic, the ubiquitous material of modern life, has quietly and insidiously seeped into every corner of the planet. From the depths of the oceans to the peaks of the highest mountains, plastic waste has become an unwelcome guest in natural surroundings.  The tide may be turning as concerned citizens, policymakers and organizations are taking a stand against this silent invader.

Unveiling the alarming statistics

Fossils, Plastics and Petrochemical Feedstocks outlines the role of fossil fuels in plastics production, detailing how over 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. To comprehend the urgency of the situation, we must delve into the disconcerting data and statistics that shed light on the magnitude of plastic pollution and its far-reaching consequences.

  1. Mind-boggling plastic production: The production of plastic has skyrocketed over the past few decades, with an estimated 390 million metric tons produced in 2021 alone. Astonishingly, this figure is projected to double by 2034, unless drastic measures are taken. The demand for single-use plastics, particularly packaging, has surged, contributing significantly to the accumulation of plastic waste in our environment.
  2. Choking oceans and marine life: Approximately eight million metric tons of plastic find their way into the world's oceans every year. This staggering amount of plastic pollution not only endangers marine life but also impacts the entire marine ecosystem. It is estimated that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the oceans than fish, posing an existential threat to the delicate balance of ocean ecosystems.
  3. Microplastics—a silent threat: Microplastics, tiny particles less than five millimeters in size, have infiltrated the most remote corners of the planet. These insidious pollutants are present in oceans, soil and even the air we breathe. A recent study found that microplastics were detected in human organs, raising concerns about potential health risks. Ingested by marine life, microplastics enter the food chain, potentially reaching our dinner plates.
  4. Recycling woes: Despite growing awareness of the need to recycle, the statistics are disheartening. McKinsey research shows that currently only 16% of plastics waste is reprocessed to make new plastics; the rest go into the oceans, landfills and incineration, where materials are lost forever as a resource. The recycling industry faces numerous challenges, including inefficient infrastructure, lack of investment and inadequate consumer education. Urgent efforts are required to revamp recycling systems, promote circular economies and develop innovative recycling technologies.
  5. Economic impact: The economic ramifications of plastic pollution are substantial. A report for WWF by Dalberg estimates that the environmental and social costs of plastic pollution amount to $2.2 trillion per year, equivalent to the GDP of a significant economy. These costs include damage to ecosystems, healthcare expenses and the impact on tourism and fishing industries. Addressing plastic pollution is not only an environmental imperative but also a sound economic decision.

Galvanize action and propel change

Governments worldwide are implementing policies to reduce plastic consumption and encourage recycling. Businesses are reevaluating their production processes and embracing sustainable alternatives.

Imagine strolling through a bustling city center where the hum of conversation mingles with the harmonious sounds of nature. This vision is becoming a reality as cities around the globe are starting to transform their landscapes. Innovative urban planning is prioritizing green spaces, reducing single-use plastics and promoting eco-friendly transportation options. From pedestrian-friendly streets to cycling lanes and electric vehicle incentives, cities are taking bold steps toward sustainability.

In line with the central and state government directives, HCLTech made all campuses in India free from single use plastics through the mass replacement with sustainable alternatives. To tackle waste generation and propel status to zero waste to landfill at all HCLTech facilities by 2025, the company has adopted measures to dispose the hazardous waste, biomedical waste and e-waste in compliance with regulatory requirements, while paper waste is recycled and reused.

Across the world, communities are banding together to organize cleanup drives and engage in recycling initiatives. HCLTech CSR Italy participated in the plastic free day in Rome and Milan, contributing to the cleaning of plastic and waste in parks, beaches and local areas.

These grassroots efforts, spearheaded by passionate individuals, local organizations and corporations, are making a tangible impact on the environment. By organizing beach cleanups, plastic collection campaigns and educational workshops, these community champions are not only removing plastic waste, but also raising awareness and fostering a sense of environmental stewardship.

HCL Foundation’s Clean Noida campaign has been appreciated by the local authority for its immense contribution to making the city India’s cleanest medium city (one million population). The foundation was awarded five-star Garbage Free City (GFC) rating in Swachh Survekshan in 2021.

Designing a sustainable enterprise

Read the report

Sustainable engineering—a powerful ally

Researchers, scientists and enterprises are developing groundbreaking technologies and sustainable engineering to tackle this issue head-on. “The primary focus of sustainable engineering is to minimize the environmental impact of engineering projects and initiatives,” says Prasanna Oruganti, Associate Vice President, Industrial Manufacturing, ERS-HCLTech.

“A few of the imperatives that sustainable engineering practices can impact include introducing energy-efficient products, product optimization, recyclable materials, circular design, sustainable packaging, optimal usage of resources for manufacturing and operations, sustainable supply chain and ecosystem, and product lifecycle assessments. These initiatives result in less CO2 emissions and support a greener planet,” says Oruganti.

From biodegradable packaging materials to advanced recycling processes, technology and innovation are paving the way for a future free from plastic waste. Corporations, start-ups and entrepreneurs are joining the fray, inventing ingenious alternatives and creating markets for sustainable products that inspire change on a larger scale.

Looking forward

Change can begin with every individual. Embracing the three Rs—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—is a mantra every person must adopt. Simple choices like carrying reusable shopping bags, water bottles and coffee cups can help minimize the plastic footprint. Opting for eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable cutlery, can make a remarkable difference overall. By making conscious decisions, people can send a clear message to businesses and policymakers, demanding sustainable solutions.

The fight against plastic pollution is not a battle the planet can afford to lose. Let this World Environment Day be a turning point—a moment when the collective can stand up and say: "Enough is enough." It is time to break free from the shackles of plastic and embrace a future that is cleaner and greener.

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