The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched the next phase of Tide Turners, the world’s largest youth-led movement against the plastic crisis, with the United-Kingdom announcing £1,6 million of funding for the next three years.
In an event held in New Delhi with the participation of a global audience of young people, the achievements of the young environmental champions part of the Tide Turners programme were celebrated, and the path was set for the next three years of mobilization to combat plastic pollution around the world.
Globally, an estimated 19 to 23 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in lakes, rivers, and seas annually. From the peak of Everest to the bottom of the oceans, plastic pollution is rampant, harming human health, the economy, our environment and threatening the achievement of sustainable development.
Young people – entrepreneurs, community leaders and change-makers – are taking centre stage in global efforts to address the plastic pollution crisis. Through the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge, UNEP works with partners including the World Organization of the Scouts Movement (WOSM), the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), WWF India and the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) India to build the capacities of young people to act against plastic pollution and create a global movement.
Featuring well-known speakers such as Dia Mirza, UNEP’s Goodwill Ambassador, and Afroz Shah, UNEP Champion of the Earth, Thursday’s event brought together institutional partners and young leaders, along with a global audience of 200 people.
Violet Adhiambo, a member of the Girls Guides of Kenya, said: “I trained girls in schools on how to recycle plastics and turn into treasures. They are making decorations out of plastics, and we also have an initiative selling plastic waste for money to get uniforms. There are so many of us out there – if we all pick up plastics, we can make our environment clean.”
Sneha Shahi, who was a student at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, cleaned up a river on her college campus, removing over 700 kg of plastic waste. She explained: “We are collecting plastics on the beach but ultimately, the challenge we face is that there is no way to segregate or recycle waste in my community. The closest recycling plant is 200 kms away and it’s been very costly for us.”
“The power of young people, including scouts and the girl guides, to drive environmental action, is phenomenal. The Tide Turners programme has reached more than 588,000 youth globally in 40 countries and UNEP is keen to strengthen our partnership with young environmental leaders, including those gathered here, and bring their impact to the next level,” said Bruno Pozzi, Deputy Director of the Ecosystems Division at UNEP.
The fifth phase of the Tide Turners will focus on scaling-up advocacy training for young people as a way to open up the relationship between youth and policymakers.
“It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the global problems around plastic pollution but I do hope that what Tide Turners does is showing that things can move, and things are moving.
The commitments heard today from our young leaders are very inspiring. I’m proud the UK has announced a further three years funding today,” said Sally Taylor, Minister Counsellor for Climate and Development at the British High Commission in New Delhi.
The new phase starts ahead of negotiations to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, which will resume in Paris from 29 May to 2 June. Additionally, this year’s World Environment Day on 5 June will focus on solutions to plastic pollution.
World Environment Day provides a critical opportunity to raise the volume on the call for governments, cities and businesses to invest in and implement solutions to end plastic pollution.
Joyce Te’o, current President of the 350 University of South Pacific, a student-led environmental club, called on policymakers to listen and support young people on environmental action: “We need your attention and for you to watch while we do.”