Plastic Waste Challenge in KosovoJun 5, 2018
Opinion Editorial by Ulrika Richardson, UN Development Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative on the occasion of 5 June, World Environment Day
For 44 years now, we are marking the World Environment Day on 5 June, the UN’s single most important day of raising awareness to protect the environment we live in and depend on! It has been almost half a century - of course there is encouraging progress but sometimes it feels as battling windmills.
“Beat Plastic Pollution” is the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, and we want it to be an alarm siren heard around the world to raise awareness and take action.
The fact is, Earth doesn’t need us as much we need Earth… Our production and consumption patterns have become increasingly unsustainable with excessive use of natural resources and toxic material and excessive emissions of waste and pollutants! Our habits have to change or else we endanger the needs and rights of future generations! .
Some alarming facts around plastic stand out: By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight: Data show that in Kosovo the waste disposed in landfills is increasing, containing 11 % plastic: Burning of plastic in the open air (such as tires!), produces gases very hazardous to our health: Plastic bags get into soil and slowly release toxic chemicals, which are known to cause cancer…. In fact plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of it is used once and then discarded!
A few days ago, the globally renowned National Geographic, that has 87.9 million followers on Instagram, posted a photo from Kosovo, showing an enormous pile of plastic waste floating in the Ereniku river in the Gjakovë/Djakovica region. This is certainly not the Kosovo image that we want to project to the world. The reaction from people, the civil society together with “Let’s Do it Kosova” was swift, and organised a “clean-up” action of the river. This was applaudable but more needs to be done! Introduction of environmental education, raising awareness of the dangers of plastic and ways how we can change our behavior.
As stated in the Environmental Strategy for Kosovo, “The solid waste sector is characterized by the high production of household waste, over-use of packaging, non-collection, non-treatment and non-re-use of waste materials, illegal dumping and waste facilities in need of upgrading.”. This in itself is a call for every man, woman and child in Kosovo... In fact everyone that lives in this precious part of the world to do our part! We all have a role to play. We all have a responsibility to care for our environment, to care for our planet and to care for our children and grandchildren!
The UN Kosovo Team together with other international multilateral and bilateral partners are working alongside Kosovo institutions towards healthier and more resilient population on disasters and climate change. Cooperation can produce great results with a combination of new knowledge, smart investments, new technologies for recycling and innovative solutions for durable results, both in cleaning the environment well as preventing further pollution! Kosovo Assembly has adopted the Resolution on Sustainable Development Goals thus becoming part of the Global Agenda 2030. The main principle of Agenda 2030 is ‘leaving no one behind’. Kosovo has now joined this global call for action and responsibility to make the world a better place to live for all.
All over the world, we see examples of commitments. From banning microbeads, to banning plastic shopping bags to changing laws and reinforcing existing laws. Kosovo should be no different. That is why a collective action to reduce plastic pollution is needed. It requires collaboration between communities, businesses, government and the Kosovo Assembly… strengthen the legal framework, restrict the sale of unnecessary single-use plastic items; increase financial responsibility on those who profit from plastic; and request products to be safe, reusable and recyclable. And communities must be ready to both comply and hold them to those promises.
If we are to be correct about future generations, if we want to be able to look our daughter or son in the eye and say that we did all we could, we must be more responsive to what we consider as “our” environment, as "Our Planet". There is no other.
Allow me to close by quoting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who, in his message today, the 2018 World Environment Day said… …. the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.
To all of us, let’s be mindful of our responsibility, to do our part, to live our lives accordingly.