Ten countries have pledged their allegiance to the United Nation’s war on ocean plastics.
UN Environment launched their global campaign #CleanSeas last Thursday, (23 February), with a goal to rid oceans of microplastics by 2022.
The countries who joined the campaign are Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Grenada, Indonesia, Norway, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone and Uruguay.
Microplastics, a major source of marine litter, are tiny pieces of plastic debris that come from the breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.
More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean every year, which is equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute, UN Environment reported.
Additionally, up to 80% of all litter in our oceans is made of plastic, which costs about $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems.
Oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050 due to the rate plastic bottles, bags and cups are being dumped in, some estimates say. By that same year, an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.
At stake is not only the pollution of oceans but also the future of coastal fishing and seafood industries. In 2014, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Sweden issued a joint call to ban the microplastics used in detergents and cosmetics.
The Netherlands is particularly worried because of concerns that seafood – including its national production of mussels – could suffer from micro-plastic pollution.
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. 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. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said.
According to UN Environment, we are producing 20 times more plastic than in the 1960s. Around one third is used in packaging.
The EU is attempting a transition to a circular economy, meaning as little as possible will be wasted in a world of limited resources and rapid population growth. The plastic being discarded into the ocean hinders that goal.
PlasticsEurope, an industry trade association, acknowledged that plastic leakage is wreaking havoc on the environment.
“The plastics industry finds it unacceptable that plastics waste is found in the environment, be it via careless behaviour or poor or insufficient waste management. This is a global problem that requires a global solution and our priority is to stop polluting the land, rivers and oceans,” Leonor Garcia, director of public affairs for PlasticsEurope, said.
The #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic reduction policies that target industries to minimise plastic packaging and redesign products.
The campaign is also calling on consumers to change their daily habits.
“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 Adrian Grenier, actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation.
”We can all start today by making personal commitments to reduce plastic waste by carrying reusable shoppings bags and water bottles, saying no to straws and choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging,” Jack Johnson, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and American musician, said.
The European Commission launched a public consultation (Green Paper) in March 2013, which aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.
The Green Paper mentions micro-plastics as one of the public policy challenges posed by plastic waste.
Micro-plastics are an important category of marine litter referred to in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), for which EU countries will have to develop targets and measures.