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UN to the rescue: A sea of plastic

10 Jul 2018

The issue of marine pollution, primarily from plastic waste, is being referred to by the UN Environment Agency as ‘Armageddon in the making’ – and with good reason. Plastic is polluting our oceans, causing damage to marine life. Many animals end up dying because of plastic accumulating in their bodies, and others get caught in plastics, sometimes choking to death or dying because they are trapped and unable to move. A recent environmental summit by the UN in Nairobi uncovered the facts on the impact of plastics pollution on our planet.

Plastics can be found all over our oceans, not just near the coast where people live. The waste spreads across the water to areas that are far into the oceans, causing damage to marine life across the planet. For instance, fish ingest plastics, thinking that they are food. Plastics such as straws and toothpicks can choke marine animals, either through ingesting them, or by entering their nasal cavities. And the damage does not stay there – it filters into the food chain and affects humans too. Unsurprising, as a lot of our food products are derived from the sea. In fact, the European Food Safety Authority requested urgent research recently, in order to address health and safety affairs.

But the problem isn’t going away. The Euromonitor International report estimates that the number of plastic bottles that are sold per year around the world may rise by over 20% in the next 5 years, only making the problem worse. There is clearly a need to reduce plastic waste.

On that note, Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, says that if the rate of plastics pollution does not change, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by the year 2050. He says, “Given the grim statistics on how we are poisoning ourselves and our planet, bold decisions from the UN Environment Assembly are critical. That is as true for threats like pollution as it is for climate change and the many other environmental threats we face.”

The good thing is that marine pollution is finding its way onto more and more agendas, so more people are becoming aware of the severity of the problem. The UN recently launched its #CleanSeas campaign, urging both consumers and businesses to adopt new bet practices to reduce their impact on the oceans. While a lot of businesses and governments are taking measures, larger scale cooperation Is required to help exacerbate the issue. Bans on plastic products, using alternative, natural and biodegradable products instead of plastics, and recycling are good starting points.