Sir David Attenborough warns of thousands of deaths caused by plastic pollution each year

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Sir David Attenborough. Photo credit: Mark Tipple via Creative Commons

One person is dying every 30 seconds in developing countries from diseases and illnesses caused by plastic pollution and uncollected rubbish.

This is according to a new report backed by Sir David Attenborough which is one of the first to look at the health impact of plastic pollution on the world’s poorest communities.

It found each year between 400,000 and a million people are dying in developing countries from illnesses including diarrhoea, malaria and cancers caused by living near uncollected waste and plastic pollution.

One in four people across the globe do not have their rubbish collected where it instead builds up in rivers, causing flooding.

The only other way to dispose of waste is to burn it in the streets which results in hazardous fumes.

Burning waste is the single largest source of carbon emissions in some countries.

Global plastic pollution emits 400m tonnes of greenhouse gases each year- more than the UK’s total carbon footprint, the report claimed.

No Time To Waste: Tackling the Plastic Pollution Crisis Before it’s Too Late has been launched by international agency Tearfund, in collaboration with conservationist charity Fauna & Flora International, the Institute of Development Studies and WasteAid.

Attenborough, who is vice president at Fauna & Flora, said: “We need leadership from those who are responsible for introducing plastic to countries where it cannot be adequately managed, and we need international action to support the communities and governments most acutely affected by this crisis.

“It is high time we turn our attention fully to one of the most pressing problems of today – averting the plastic pollution crisis – not only for the health of our planet, but for the wellbeing of people around the world.”

Multinational companies are now being called on to change their business models by committing to report the number of single-use plastic items they distribute in developing countries by 2020, and halving this by 2025.

Ruth Valerio, global advocacy and influencing director at Tearfund said: “Today Tearfund launches our new Rubbish Campaign, which calls for urgent action from four multinationals - Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

“They sell billions of products in single-use plastic packaging in poorer countries where waste isn’t collected, in the full knowledge that people will have no choice but to burn it, discard it in waterways or live among it.”

Attenborough will introduce the report later today at an event in London.

An estimated 8 –12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.

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