The Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) program calls on young climate activists today, launching a new app to encourage over 100,000 young people around the world to turn the tide on plastic pollution.
As one of the most versatile materials ever produced, plastic has revolutionized the way we package, eat, travel, and dress. However, this comes at a cost. Over two-thirds of all plastic produced every year is used in short-lived products that quickly become waste. The annual social and environmental cost is as much as $1.5 trillion per year, with near 11 million metric tons of plastic released into the ocean annually and more than 171 trillion pieces of plastic now estimated to pollute the world’s seas.
Without urgent action, this is expected to triple by 2040.
With microplastics now found in everything from clothing to breast milk and the open burning of plastics known to release toxic persistent organic pollutants – chemicals that don’t break down in the environment and contaminate water, soil, and food – the risks to human and environmental health are stark.
Ahead of World Environment Day on the 5th of June, the Tide Turners App builds on the momentum of the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge developed as part of UNEP’s Clean Seas Campaign to promote youth focused community-based solutions for the prevention of plastic pollution. Since February 2019, Tide Turners has been rolled out in 35 countries, reaching over 588,000 young people.
The ISLANDS program, funded by the Global Environment Facility, has reimagined the original challenge as a social and gamified app, complete with a leader board and story sharing functionality, with users encouraged to complete three challenges:
- Interviewing an adult about the changes in plastics pollution they have witnessed or producing a piece of art about a world without plastics.
- Recording their own plastics consumption.
- Developing an Action Plan, to bring what they have learned into action.
The app was developed in collaboration with young people from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and is targeted at those aged 12–25, particularly in SIDS. Children account for near 30 percent of the population in the Caribbean.
“Plastic pollution affects each and every one of us, and doing something about it can seem overwhelming, especially for young people worried about their future. This is why I am so pleased about the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge. It shows how and where we can do something about plastic pollution, as individuals and as communities, including in island states where trash collection is a major problem both on land and at sea. Narrowing in on this kind of actionable information is what changes minds and outcomes” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF.
ISLANDS supports 33 SIDS in achieving safe low and non-chemical development pathways, including using less plastic. Through its projects in the Caribbean and the Pacific, ISLANDS expects to engage over 100,000 young people in combating plastic pollution. Globally, it aims to reach over 9 million people and avoid over 300,000 metric tons of marine litter.
Speaking from Paris at the second meeting of the International Negotiating Committee (INC), INC-2, to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, UNEP Industry and Economy Division Director Sheila Aggarwal-Khan said that empowering young people is critical for progress.
“Tackling plastic pollution is a global undertaking; one that requires everyone – but youth in particular” she said. “Plastics are choking our ecosystems, warming the climate and damaging our health. The Tide Turners App puts youth in the driving seat, educating, connecting, and inspiring the next generation.”
This press release was originally published by UNEP.