Plastic pollution leading to huge death toll in developing world

14th May 2019


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Oladele Adeniyi Ogunwole

Plastic pollution and mismanaged waste causes hundreds of thousands of deaths in developing countries every year, research from the Christian charity Tearfund has revealed.

In a report published today, Tearfund said that between 400,000 and one million people die annually from illnesses and diseases linked to rubbish that is dumped or burnt near homes.

It highlights how two billion people worldwide do not have their waste collected. This can cause rubbish to build up in rivers, which results in floods that lead to diarrhoea and a host of infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, burning waste as a last resort produces fumes that are extremely damaging to health, and are the largest source of carbon emissions in some countries.

Sir David Attenborough, vice president at Fauna & Flora International, which co-produced the report, said the findings are the first to highlight the impact of plastic pollution on the world's poorest people.

“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.

“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.“

The report highlights how a double-decker busload of plastic waste is burned or dumped in developing countries every second, and how living near mismanaged waste doubles the incidence of diarrhoeal disease.

It calls on multinational companies to fundamentally change their business models by reporting the number of single-use plastic items they distribute in developing countries by 2020, and halving this by 2025.

“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,“ Tearfund's global advocacy and influencing director, Dr Ruth Valerio, said.

“The CEOs running these multinationals can no longer ignore the human cost of single-use plastic – fundamental changes to business models are urgently required. There is no time to waste.“

Image credit: iStock

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