It is a sad fact that we throw 8 million tonnes of plastic waste into our oceans every year. A great amount of this plastic has already formed a new ‘dynamic’ continent in the Pacific, and the natural shredding process at sea will leave all this waste to become part of our food chain in the form of micro-plastic. The prospects of this environmental disaster are daunting – we have to do something.
UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa announced her Campaign Against Plastic Pollution in 2018 – a priority during her year in office – will hold both consumers and decision-makers accountable, urging the phasing out of single-use plastics such as water bottles, and raising awareness of the impact plastic pollution has on human and environmental health.
“It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Microplastics are now confirmed in table salt, in fresh water, each person on the planet is believed to have plastic in their bodies,” she cited in her statement
“I intend to leverage the capacity of the office of the President of the General Assembly, to support ongoing global campaigns to beat plastic pollution. This will include complementary efforts by UN Environment, Global Citizen and National Geographic, amongst others.”
According to the UN’s climate agency, UN environment (UNEP), more than eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean annually; that’s equal to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute, at a cost of around $8 billion, in damage to marine ecosystems.
The Assembly President said the campaign is comprised of two elements: global advocacy, and internal initiatives to reduce plastics use within the UN.
This is not the first time the UN had put the scourge of alarming plastic debris at the head of its priorities. In 2010 the “Greening the Blue” campaign was launched to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability throughout the UN system and encourage staff members to reduce, reuse and recycle.
During the 2018 high-level week of the General Assembly, UNEP launched the Global Plastics Platform, a network to foster commitments to reduce plastic pollution by exploring innovative designs, and methods of consumption and disposal of plastics around the world.
In 2017, the agency headed up the Clean Seas campaign to urge a ban on single-use plastic, after findings revealed there were 500 times more microplastic particles littering the ocean, than there are stars in the galaxy.