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Our Plastic Oceans

Last month, the EU hosted the 4th Edition of the Our Oceans Conference in Malta. The event, which was attended by delegates from across the world, outlined a new vision to combat oceanic pollution, over-exploitation, coastal degradation and climate change, by pledging to 437 tangible, measurable commitments to secure a sustainable future for our ocean ecosystem. A detailed list of the commitments made by each attending country and/or organisation can be viewed via the following link to the Our Ocean Website.

Plastic Beach 1

Plastics, and the risk they present to the marine ecosystem were a major focus of the conference, and it was genuinely encouraging to see the global issue of plastic contamination receiving satisfying levels of media coverage in the run up to, and in the wake of the conference. We have included a selection of recent (hyper-linked) articles below, which range from images of stranded sperm whales (starved to death because their stomachs were full of plastic waste) to young sea birds (as featured in the BBC’s new BluePlanet II Series) doomed to starvation as their parents feed them with plastic fragments, mistakenly taken for real food.

Yet, despite many sceptics who underplay the seriousness of the issue, the international community appears to have accepted the fact that plastic contamination poses as serious a threat to the marine ecosystem as climate change, and is finally starting to take action. But, with consumers from around the world buying a million plastic bottles a minute and with eight million tonnes of plastic waste flowing into our oceans annually, are the pledges and promised action going to be enough?

Certainly, from the various commitments made at the conference, a significant amount of 'phased' financial and policy-driven action is being proposed. At a national level, notwithstanding the current Brexit negotiations, it was good to see the UK Government 'roll up it's sleeves' and commit to reducing plastic waste by implementing a litter innovation fund and litter strategies for England (note: litter strategies have already been implemented by the devolved governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland), in addition to a plastic microbeads ban by the end of 2018. At a more local, house-hold level, the good news is that everyone can take action to reduce their plastic footprint, whether it’s making sure all plastics are recycled or simply refusing to use anymore drinking straws or plastic disposable cutlery.

Plastic Contamination Hyper-links:

Image Credit: Pixabay Users (H. Hach & G. Simon)

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