The war on ocean plastic
More than 8 million tons of plastic leak into the ocean each year. This is as dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute which severely affects marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism. The problem has an estimated cost of 8 billion dollars in damage, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
According to their research, between 60-90% of marine litter is made up of different plastic polymers and affects up to 600 marine species. From this 600, 15% are endangered species which either ingest or are trapped by marine litter.
In response to the problematic, UNEP launched on February 23 a global campaign determined to eliminate the major sources of marine litter. The Clean Seas campaign urges governments and business to take ambitious measures to eliminate microplastics from personal care products, ban or tax single-use plastic bags and reduce other disposable plastic items in the next 5 years.
“Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables,” Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP, said in a press release announcing the campaign.
Throughout the year the campaign will be announcing the measures countries and business take. For example, ten countries have already joined the initiative with far-reaching pledges. Indonesia committed to slash by 70% its marine litter by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags this year and Costa Rica will take measures to reduce single-use plastic though better waste management and education.
These initiatives need to be replicated as soon as possible as up to 80% of all litter in the oceans are made of plastic. More so, to illustrate the problem UNEP showed there are as much as 53 trillion microplastic paticles in the ocean, 500 times more than stars in our galaxy and by 2050 oceans will have more plastic than fish if present trends are not tackled.
“Whether we choose to use plastic bags at the grocery store or sip through a plastic straw, our seemingly small daily decisions to use plastics are having a dramatic effect on our oceans,”said actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, Adrian Grenier.
So what can we do?
Companies like DELL Computers announced they will use recovered ocean plastic in its product packaging.
“DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean,” said its Vice President for Global Operations, Piyush Bhargava. “Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP’s vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused.”
Besides plastic pollution oceans also suffer from overfishing, acidification and increasing global water temperatures linked to climate change. On February 15 the UN held a two-day meeting in New York to prepare for the Ocean Conference in June which will aim to “safeguard the planet’s oceans and help them recover from human-induced problems.” UNEP expects major announcements during this conference.