Women are the most affected by plastic pollution, according to a Unep report.
“Women, in particular, suffer from plastic-related toxicity risk, due to higher aggregate exposure to plastics at home and even in feminine care products,” said the report.
In Kenya, for example, women are the most visible in dumpsites and remain disproportionately affected by the effects of waste from diseases to poisoning.
“Differences in gender, social roles, and political power in regulating plastic use and health standards place women at high risk of miscarriages and cancer, further exacerbating gender-related disparities overall,” states the report.
According to Unep, the impact of plastics on marginalised populations are severe, and exist at all stages of the production cycle, from raw material extraction and manufacturing to consumption and disposal.
The report, produced in collaboration with a grassroots environmental group, Azul, stated that many areas have been deforested for road building, displacing indigenous people. In addition, water has been contaminated by fracking operations to extract natural gas in countries such as the US and Sudan.
Natural gas and crude oil are some of the raw materials for plastic production.
Unep called for justice.”Environmental justice means educating those on the frontlines of plastic pollution about its risks, including them in decisions about its production, use, and disposal, and ensuring their access to a credible judicial system”, said Inger Andersen, Unep Executive Director.
Josephine Wawira, a communications officer at the Sustainable Inclusive Business, said: “The effects of pollution on the ecosystem go far and wide; from rainforests to the deepest ocean trenches and on our food chains when plastic waste is consumed by fish and livestock. From producers to consumers, we are all at risk and must take a collective stance on a common solution.”
In Kenya, many businesses continue to face the challenge of reducing and even re-using plastics, she said.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature report, in Kenya, 73 per cent of all plastic waste generated goes uncollected. Only eight per cent is recycled and the remaining 19 per cent is disposed in unhygienic landfills or dumpsites.
“Like many countries, Kenya has long struggled with plastic waste, which dots its Indian Ocean coast and often abounds in its lakes. In Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city with some two million residents, 3.7 kilos of plastic per capita leach into bodies of water annually,” states Unep.