UNICEF has called for increased participation of children in waste management strategies, including those meant to address plastic pollution.
Addressing the World Environment Day Commemorations recently, UNICEF Country Representative to Zimbabwe, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said children cannot be left out in the fight against pollution as they also face the brunt of plastic pollution as they are not spared from its effects.
“Children and young people must and are playing a pivotal role in adapting the world we live in to be fit for today and tomorrow’s children and families,” said Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Country Representative to Zimbabwe. “UNICEF calls for all to create space, support, and encourage children and young people to actively participate and stand amongst us as leaders in the global fight against plastic pollution and climate change,” said Dr Oyewale.
Recent research published by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe highlights that every child in Zimbabwe, 43% of the population or 6.6 million under 18, is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard and is at risk of climate change impacts such as flooding, drought, heatwaves, cyclones, and air, land, and water pollution. Children are the most vulnerable to plastic pollution, climate change, and environmental degradation, and yet they are the least responsible.
“Children are physiologically more vulnerable,” said Oyewale.
“Toxic substances, such as microplastics, lead, and other forms of pollution, affect children more than adults, even at lower doses of exposure. In this regard, we need to put children at the center of the climate and environmental pollution agenda, as well as recognize them as agents of change to the pollution crisis.”
Permanent Secretary for Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry, Ambassador Raphael Tayerera Faranisi, echoed Oyewale’s call for action.
“There is an urgent need globally and locally to address the threat of plastic pollution,” said Faranisi. “The only way we can do so is through collaboration and engagement to fund innovative ways to stop plastic pollution,” said Faranisi.
Faranisi said that the government is stepping up efforts to push Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and create a circular economy that reduces, reuses, and recycles plastic more sustainably. He also called on local authorities to expedite investments and improve waste management systems.
“We urgently need appropriate infrastructure that receives and processes plastic waste and ensures its reuse.
“There is also a need for local authorities to engage consumers and other key stakeholders in addressing plastic pollution to influence the market and inspire behavioral change,” said Faranisi.
About 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, equating to one lorry load every minute. More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 percent is recycled. An estimated 19 to 23 million tonnes end up on land, in lakes, rivers, and seas annually.