UNOG works to beat plastic pollution

Wed, 18/07/18

Each year, a staggering 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans. By 2050, it is estimated that oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish. To be part of the solution to this problem, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), on World Environmental Day 2018, took actions to #beatplasticpollution.

UNOG cafeterias, frequented by staff, delegates and visitors, serve around 2,000 meals a day. Some of these meals are taken away by the clients, and the food was, until now, mostly packed in petroleum-based plastic containers. On 5 June 2018, clients were happy to discover that their plastic take-away containers had been replaced by containers made from biodegradable material. It looks like petroleum-based plastic, but instead it’s a biomaterial based on plants. Straws are now made of biodegradable recycled paper, in the #beatplasticpollution spirit, and other improvements have been made, such as the use of bamboo plates, and additional waste sorting bins for recycling. Single-use plastics are now limited to a strict minimum.

The next target will be eliminating single-use plastic from its campus. Due to the abundant supply of potable water from the Lake Geneva at the Palais des Nations, there is really no need to purchase water bottles in single-use plastic! Efforts are underway to facilitate accessing this readily available supply for use by all staff, delegates and visitors. 

Besides taking action in the Palais des Nations, UNOG has also reached out to the public on the environmental costs of plastic pollution. In this context, artist / photographer Emilie Crittin was invited to present her latest work at the Passerelle. The artwork is created from the plastics recovered during the annual clean-up of the Grangettes Nature Reserve, located at the mouth of the Rhône river entering Lake Geneva. The waste found during this event was used to create sculptures, such as a heart made of 11,000 individual cotton swabs or beautiful photographs depicting animals made of plastic debris.

Artist Emilie Crittin presents her artwork to UNOG management

UNOG has taken the sustainable path, but the goal of ending single-use plastic, and overall reducing its waste still requires more effort. This will necessitate the identification and implementation of sustainable solutions, as well as the full cooperation of visitors, staff and suppliers. We therefore will count on everyone’s vital support.

So remember, if you can’t reuse it, refuse it!

Seabirds are often victims of plastic pollution, mistaking the debris for food. Photo E. Crittin


Categories: Staff Engagement, Waste