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Published on Monday, April 22, 2024

Public Health raising awareness of environmental issues this Earth Day

In recognition of Earth Day, which takes place annually on April 22, Grey Bruce Public Health (GBPH) is helping to raise awareness of environmental issues as well as the importance of actions to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The global theme of Earth Day 2024 is Planet vs. Plastics, which aims to shine a light on the health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution.

To coincide with this theme, GBPH is drawing attention to the impact plastic and electronic waste from vaping devices (e-cigarettes) has on our waterways, air, and local and global environments.

“For decades, cigarette butts have been the single most-littered item found during beach and shoreline cleanups. While cigarettes and other commercial tobacco products continue to cause great harm to human health and the environment, there is growing concern about how waste from vapes and electronic cigarettes is affecting our planet,” says Jason Weppler, Program Manager of Health Promotion at GBPH.

Reports have shown that 90 million vaping pods were sold in Canada in 2019. The availability of disposable vaping devices has increased since 2019 with disposables being the fastest-growing category of vapes, according to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Once used, vapes are considered hazardous waste as they contain a lithium battery, circuit board, heavy metals, and, of course, nicotine or cannabis. With few facilities or services available to accept and recycle used vapes, people who vape are left with limited options for disposing of the products in an environmentally safe way. It is likely many vapes are ending up in landfills along with many other discarded plastics. 

“Youth, in particular, are concerned about climate change and the environment. Results from the 2019 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey showed 37% of students surveyed are worried about climate change and another 50% feel depressed about the future because of climate change. While the future may be worrisome, we can make a difference by working together toward collective impact. For many youth, taking a stand against vaping for environmental reasons can be a way to feel empowered in a changing world,” Weppler says.

To help raise awareness of environmental issues, Grey Bruce Public Health will have a booth at this year’s Earth Day Celebration in downtown Owen Sound.

During the April 20 event, GBPH staff will be encouraging visitors to complete a survey, aimed at gathering information on which environmental issues are of greatest concern to the community.

Staff will also be sharing information on the impact of plastic waste on the planet, how climate change is expected to increase the risk of tick-borne diseases, and other environmental issues.

Grey Bruce Public Health will also have a booth at this year’s Grown in Grey agriculture education event, set for April 16 and 17, 2024, in Desboro. Members of GBPH’s Tobacco Cessation Team will have interactive activities available at the event to help teach students about the health and environmental impacts of vaping.

GBPH will also use its social media platforms to raise awareness about Earth Day, along with the impact of plastic pollution on the environment.

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