• conservation

“Planet vs. Plastics” – Global Theme for Earth Day 2024

PRNewswire August 1, 2023

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — EARTHDAY.ORG, the global organizer of Earth Day, has announced the global theme for Earth Day 2024: Planet vs. Plastics.

Planet vs. Plastics unites students, parents, businesses, governments, churches, unions, individuals, and NGOs in an unwavering commitment to call for the end of plastics for the sake of human and planetary health, demanding a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040 and an ultimate goal of building a plastic-free future for generations to come.

To achieve a 60% reduction by 2040, EARTHDAY.ORG’s goals are: (1) promoting widespread public awareness of the damage done by plastic to human, animal, and all biodiversity’s health and demanding more research be conducted on its health implications, including the release of any and all information regarding its effects to the public; (2) rapidly phasing out all single use plastics by 2030 and achieving this phase out commitment in the United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution in 2024; (3) demanding policies ending the scourge of fast fashion and the vast amount of plastic it produces and uses; and (4) investing in innovative technologies and materials to build a plastic-free world.

“The word environment means what surrounds you. Now plastics does more than surrounds you. In the case of plastics we have become the product itself – it flows through our blood stream, adheres to our internal organs, and carries with it heavy metals known to cause cancer and disease. Now this once-thought amazing and useful product has become something else, and our health and that of all other living creatures hangs in the balance,” said Kathleen Rogers, President of EARTHDAY.ORG. “The Planet vs. Plastics campaign is a call to arms, a demand that we act now to end the scourge of plastics and safeguard the health of every living being upon our planet.”

Plastics extend beyond an imminent environmental issue; they present a grave threat to human health as alarming as climate change. As plastics break down into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into our food and water sources and circulate through the air we breathe. Plastic production now has grown to more than 380 million tons per year.1 More plastic has been produced in the last ten years than in the entire 20th century,2 and the industry plans to grow explosively for the indefinite future.

“All this plastic was produced by a petrochemical industry with an abysmal record of toxic emissions, spills, and explosions,” said Denis Hayes, Chair Emeritus of EARTHDAY.ORG. “Plastics are produced in polluting facilities that somehow seem to always be located in the poorest neighborhoods. Some plastics are lethal when combusted3; other plastics transmit hormone-disrupting chemicals; and all plastics can starve birds and suffocate sea life.4 At every stage of their life cycles, from the oil well to the town dump, plastics are a dangerous blight.”

More than 500 billion plastic bags—one million bags per minute—were produced worldwide last year.5 Many plastic bags have a working life of a few minutes, followed by an afterlife of centuries. Even after plastics disintegrate, they remain as microplastics, minute particles permeating every niche of life on the planet.

100 billion plastic beverage containers were sold last year in the United States.6 That’s more than 300 bottles per inhabitant. A few of them will be converted into park benches; none of them will be made into new plastic bottles and 95% of all plastics in the US won’t be recycled at all.7 Even the 5% of plastics being recycled are “downcycling” to inferior products or shipped to poorer countries for “recycling”, leaving the demand for virgin plastic undiminished. 

People seldom think of water when they think of plastics. But making a plastic water bottle requires six times as much water as the bottle itself contains.8

EARTHDAY.ORG demands the International Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC) mandate the end of production of single-use plastic by 2030 in the Global Plastics Treaty. Moreover, it demands the treaty be implemented using the precautionary principle and the polluter pays doctrine.

The fast fashion industry annually produces over 100 billion garments.9 Overproduction and overconsumption have transformed the industry, leading to the disposability of fashion. People now buy 60% more clothing than 15 years ago,10 but each item is kept for only half as long.

Approximately 85% of garments end up in landfills or incinerators, with only 1% being recycled.11 Nearly 70% of clothing is made from crude oil,12 resulting in the release of dangerous microfibers when washed and continued contribution to long-term pollution in landfills.13

Social injustice and fashion are directly intertwined, with exploitative working conditions,14 low wages,15 and widespread child labor.16 For far too long, the industry has relied on a fractured supply chain and an almost total lack of governmental regulation.17

To learn more about Planet vs. Plastics and join the movement for a plastic-free future, please visit: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2024/. To educate yourself on the impacts of plastic on human health, check out the Plastics Health Research Module and EARTHDAY.ORG’s Earth Hub for all fact sheets, toolkits, press releases, and articles.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s mission is to diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day (1970), EARTHDAY.ORG is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in nearly 192 countries to build environmental democracy. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day actions each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Learn more at earthday.org.

1 Statistica Research Department. “Plastic Production Worldwide 2021.” Statista, 12 June 2023, www.statista.com/statistics/282732/global-production-of-plastics-since-1950/.

2 Plastic Soup Foundation. “Plastic Plastic Facts & Figures.” Plastic Soup Foundation, 4 Jan. 2023, www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/plastic-facts-and-figures/#productie.

3 National Health Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “Endocrine Disruptors.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm. Accessed 27 July 2023.

4 Wilcox, Chris, et al. Threat of Plastic Pollution to Seabirds Is Global, Pervasive, and Increasing, www.pnas.org/doi/pdf/10.1073/pnas.1502108112. Accessed 28 July 2023.

5 United Nations Environmental Programme. “Visual Feature: Beat Plastic Pollution.” UNEP, www.unep.org/interactives/beat-plastic-pollution/. Accessed 27 July 2023.

6 Plastic Soup Foundation. “The World’s Population Consumes 1 Million Plastic Bottles Every Minute.” Plastic Soup Foundation, 2 Mar. 2020, www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2017/07/the-worlds-population-consumes-1-million-plastic-bottles-every-minute/.

7 Greenpeace. “Circular Claims Fall Flat Again.” Greenpeace USA, www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/circular-claims-fall-flat-again/. Accessed 27 July 2023.

8 Fox, Eve. “Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles – a Bad Choice by Every Measure.” Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution, 5 Dec. 2022, www.beyondplastics.org/fact-sheets/plastic-water-bottles.

9 Dean, Christina. “Waste – Is It ‘really’ in Fashion?” Waste – Is It “really” in Fashion? : Fashion Revolution, 2019, www.fashionrevolution.org/waste-is-it-really-in-fashion/.

10 United Nations Environment Programme. “UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion Addresses Damage of ‘Fast Fashion.'” UN Environment, 2019, www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-alliance-sustainable-fashion-addresses-damage-fast-fashion.

11 Portela, Valentina. “The Fashion Industry Waste Is Drastically Contributing to Climate Change.” CALPIRG, 25 May 2023, pirg.org/california/articles/the-fashion-industry-waste-is-drastically-contributing-to-climate-change/.

12 Dottle, Rachael, and Jackie Gu. “The Real Environmental Impact of the Fashion Industry.” Bloomberg.Com, 23 Feb. 2022, www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2022-fashion-industry-environmental-impact/#xj4y7vzkg.

13 Okamoto, Katie. “Your Laundry Sheds Harmful Microfibers. Here’s What You Can Do about It.” The New York Times, 21 Apr. 2021, www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/reduce-laundry-microfiber-pollution/.

14 Global Slavery Index. “Stitched with Slavery in the Seams.” Walk Free, 23 May 2023, www.walkfree.org/global-slavery-index/findings/spotlights/stitched-with-slavery-in-the-seams/.

15 Clean Clothes Campaign. “Poverty Wages.” Clean Clothes Campaign, 6 Dec. 2022, cleanclothes.org/poverty-wages.

16 Global Slavery Index. “Stitched with Slavery in the Seams.” Walk Free, 23 May 2023, www.walkfree.org/global-slavery-index/findings/spotlights/stitched-with-slavery-in-the-seams/.

17 Friedman, Vanessa. “New York Could Make History with a Fashion Sustainability Act.” The New York Times, 7 Jan. 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/style/new-york-fashion-sustainability-act.html.


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