Last Monday, the 12th November, six students and Ms Libby had the honour of attending the World Science Day for Peace and Development at UNESCO Bangkok. World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated annually in order to renew the national and international commitment to science for peace and development, as well as stressing the responsible use of Science for the benefit of society. This year, the event was a collaboration between UNESCO and the National Science and Technology Development Agency, and the topic at hand was plastic waste, one of the greatest global environmental challenges. The day started with a speech by the Minister of Science and Technology, and a speech by the President of the Asian Institute of Technology. They were followed by four keynote speakers: Professor Lawrence Surendra, Mr Henning Schwarze, Mr Remy Norbert and Dr. Jim Jem.
All four speakers gave a very insightful and remarkable addresses, emphasizing the need to make a change in the way we deal with plastic pollution. Surendra, a chemical engineer and chairman at the Sustainability Platform, presented shocking statistics about plastic pollution, such as that 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the world’s ocean annually. He then further elaborated on what we can do to help, in order to try and reduce this enormous figure. Moreover, Schwarze, an entrepreneur, geographer, and environment and tourism professional, focused on what Germany was doing to tackle plastic pollution. He gave the example of the “Plastic Pirates”. Schools and youth clubs are involved in collecting scientific data from the various rivers in Germany, which enables scientists to receive nationwide data of microplastics in Europe, while at the same time being fun for the students involved and raising awareness. The third speaker Norbert, the director of Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control at Rwanda Environment Management Authority, focused on the Rwandan experience in tackling plastic pollution. Rwanda is the first country in the world to ban the use of plastic bags. This was a very insightful talk, as he further explained the challenges they faced, the process they went through, and their next steps. The last speaker was Dr Jim Jem, who focused on bioplastics. He appeared on stage fully clothed in PLA (poly lactic acid). He emphasized that the use of PLA would help reduce the problem of plastic pollution, as it is biodegradable. The event finished off with a Q&A session.
Overall, I am very glad that I was able to attend the World Science Day for Peace and Development at UNESCO Bangkok. The messages conveyed that day and the passion from each of the speakers were inspiring and powerful. Walking out of the room where the speeches were held, my friends and I discussed what we just had learnt, and how we even wanted to pursue something similar in the future. The dramatic effects of plastic on the environment can be seen everywhere. It is so important to make conscious decisions about the amount of plastic you consume daily, and the impact it will have on our planet.