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G7 and oceans plastic pollution phenomenon

By Sonny Atumah

The 44th Summit of the Group of Seven, G7 industrial nations ends today. Canada hosted the two-day meeting in the beautiful region of Charlevoix, Quebec. The G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the United States. The host country invited leaders and representatives from international organizations to discuss challenges of the global community.

plastic pollution

Twelve countries invited to the 2018 G7 Summit included Argentina, Bangladesh, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Norway, Rwanda as Head of African Union, Senegal, Seychelles,  South Africa and Vietnam. The international organisations invited are the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank.

One of the five themes of the two-day summit was: “Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy.” The timing of the G7 meeting was apt as it coincided with the period of this year’s World Environment Day celebrated on June 5 every year since 1974 to promote “worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.” This year’s theme was:  ‘’Beat Plastic Pollution.” The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged all people to reject single-use plastic items, and warned that growing levels of plastic waste were becoming unmanageable.

Expert record has it that one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute with a colossal 1.4 billion tons of trash ends up in the oceans, much of which is plastic. Almost 90 percent of plastic debris that pollutes ocean water comes from ocean-based sources. Merchant ships expel cargo, sewage, used medical equipment, and other types of waste that contain plastic into the ocean. With the staggering number how can the G7 accelerate the transition to low carbon, climate resilient economies?  As they focused on the role of oceans and maritime resources in supporting local and national economics more people and groups should be enlisted to make recycling a part of everyday life.

The G7 engaged leaders from the international community through an Outreach Session at the summit. They dilated issues of the oceans as part of an overall focus on building strong economies and ensuring growth works for everyone without inviting the major ocean polluting countries to this year’s summit. The countries polluting the oceans the most in a descending order include China, Indonesia, Phillipines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Nigeria and Thailand.

Indonesia is ranked second biggest marine polluter in the world with reports that the country produces 187.2 million tons of plastic waste each year. Many developing countries like Indonesia lack the infrastructure to effectively manage their waste and the problem has become so severe that the nation’s army has been called in to help clean up where its rivers and canals were clogged with dense masses of bottles, bags, and other plastic packaging.

Therein lays the problem. To solve these problems additional innovations are needed by working with plastic producers.   Plastics Associations from regions across the globe signed the Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter in March 2011. The Global Declaration represented a public commitment by a global industry to tackle a global problem: plastic litter in the coastal and marine environment.

They believe that humans cause marine litter and humans have the power to stop it. This humble recognition has spurred people across the globe to fight the causes of marine litter. Plastics associations recognize their important role in fighting marine litter and have publicly committed to contribute to solutions in six focused work areas: Education, Research, Public Policy, Best Practices, Recycling and Recovering Plastics and Plastic Pellet Containment.

Success will require sustained, good faith cooperation among a wide range of stakeholders.  Education, Contribute to solutions by working in public-private partnerships aimed at preventing marine litter.This work area is focused on education. Raising awareness of the problem and highlighting steps people are taking to combat it can help change behavior that results in litter.

Work with the scientific community and researchers to better understand and evaluate the scope, origins, and impact of and solutions to marine litter. This work area is focused on research. While the general scope of the marine litter problem is apparent, additional research will help determine the actual impacts of plastic marine litter, how and why marine litter enters the ocean, and how to prevent it.

Government policies and the way they are or are not enforced have a huge impact on the prevalence of litter in the oceans. Advocating effective and efficient policies and effective waste management can spur cleanups and support marine litter prevention. The Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter help spread knowledge regarding eco-efficient waste management systems and practices, particularly in communities and countries that border our oceans and watersheds.

This work area is focused on sharing best practices. While individual projects may vary from place to place, sharing successes—and the knowledge that comes with them—helps industry, government, and other stakeholders understand what actually works to prevent marine litter.


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