By Gift Briton

The resumed fifth session of United Nations Environment Assembly(UNEA-5.2) kicked off yesterday at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya where representative of 193 member states, business leaders, environmentalists and civil societies across the globe will discuss and address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss as well as pollution and waste.

With plastic pollution being the key talking point, the assembly seeks to bring a global agreement on a legally binding instrument to ban plastic pollution.

Plastics are the largest harmful and most persistent fraction of marine litter, accounting for over 85% of marine litter where over 11 million tons of these plastics ends up in seas and oceans every year.

In his opening remarks during the forum, Espen Eide, UNEA President and Norway Minister for Environment and Climate, noted that plastic pollution has evolved into a problem of its own necessitating the urgent need to act for nature so as to achieve the sustainable development goals.

Plastics leaks into nature and eventually ends up in the rivers which then sweep these plastics into oceans causing a shared global problem.

UNEP notes that the same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to completely break down.

Additionally, most plastic items never fully disappear, they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces which in turn enter the human body through inhalation and absorption and accumulate in organs.

According to UNEP, there is a substantial evidence that plastics-associated chemicals, such as methyl mercury, plasticisers and flame retardants, can enter the body and are linked to health concerns.

In countries with poor solid waste management systems, plastic waste, especially single-use plastic bags, can be found clogging sewers and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests, and as a result, increasing the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria.

“I am convinced that the time has come for a legally binding treaty to end plastic population and it is time now to confront this shared challenge of humanity,” EIide said.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), noted that between 1950 -2017, the world leaked nine billion tons of plastic in to environment and out of that seven billion tons are waste.

“This the moment to roll back the era of throwing away plastic waste into the environment by launching negotiations on internal agreement to ensure that plastics keeps circulating in the economy rather than in the ocean dais,” Andersen noted.