May 3, 2018

43 Governments and 80,000 Individuals Pledge Action on Plastic Pollution

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

30 April 2018: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) has declared that the “tide is already beginning to turn” on tackling single-use plastics and reducing microplastics in cosmetics and toiletries, thanks, in part, to the efforts under the Clean Seas Campaign.

According to UNEP, raising awareness on the impact of plastic pollution has helped to build global momentum to tackle plastic pollution. One year since the Clean Seas Campaign’s launch, 43 governments, representing half of the world’s coastline, have signed up to the Campaign. Many of these governments have made specific commitments to protect oceans, ban or reduce single-use plastics and encourage recycling.

The Indian state of Sikkim, which was the first Indian state to ban disposable plastic bags in 1998, has banned the use of packaged drinking water in government offices and at government events. Offices are now using large reusable dispensers, filtered water and reusable water bottles for meetings. Sikkim has also banned the use of Styrofoam and thermocol disposable cutlery and plates throughout the entire state as part of efforts to decrease plastic pollution and tackle its garbage problem. The state is working to enforce these bans through an awareness program and penalties.

At an individual level, nearly 80,000 people have taken the Clean Seas pledge to eliminate single-use plastics and microbeads from their lives, with many of them changing their behavior to use cloth bags or demand the removal of single-use bottles from their offices. These individuals are also advocating for their governments and the private sector to address plastic pollution.

In another example, SLO active, a social enterprise dedicated to cleaning up the ocean, release a guide titled, ‘Plastic Pollution: Single Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans.’ It features facts and figures on plastic pollution and discusses problems, such as the ocean ‘garbage patches,’ or gyres, and single-use plastic and microplastics. The guide then describes the impact of plastic pollution and presents four types of potential solutions to minimize this impact: single-use plastic alternatives; plastic recycling initiatives; beach and ocean cleanup; and a list of plastic pollution charities. As an illustration, the guide proposes alternatives to single-use plastic, ranging from reusable water bottles, shopping bags and coffee cups and reducing disposable cutlery, plates and packaging.

Still, UNEP cautions that the scale of the plastic pollution problem “demands a global response.” As an example, the equivalent of one garbage truck of litter is dumped in the sea every minute, amounting to eight million tonnes of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans. Over the next five years, the Campaign aims to create “unstoppable momentum” towards a truly circular economy. UNEP Executive Director said the Campaign is working to “redefine the world’s relationship with plastics” and transform the way humans consume plastics to secure the health of the world’s oceans.

As of April 2018, the following countries had signed on to the Clean Seas Campaign: Bahrain; Barbados; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica, Denmark; the Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Finland; France; Grenada; Iceland; Indonesia; Israel; Italy; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati; Madagascar; the Maldives; Malta; Montenegro; the Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Oman; Panama; Peru; the Philippines; Poland; Saint Lucia; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Sweden; United Kingdom; and Uruguay.