Microplastics in Oceans Outnumber Stars in Our Galaxy by 500 Times
The United Nations is "declaring war" on the biggest sources of planetary pollution—ocean plastic. On Thursday, the intergovernmental organization's environment program (UNEP) launched its #CleanSeas campaign at the World Ocean Summit hosted by The Economist in Bali, Indonesia.
The unprecedented global initiative urges governments and businesses to take measures to eliminate microplastics from cosmetics and personal care items, ban or tax single-use plastic bags and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items by 2022. Everyday citizens are also encouraged to join the fight.
Ten countries have already joined the campaign. Indonesia aims to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025. Uruguay will tax plastic bags later this year. Costa Rica will implement better waste management and education strategies to slash single-use plastic.
Estimates say that 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, wreaking havoc on aquatic life and ecosystems and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. If plastic continues to be dumped at its current rate, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050 and an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic by then.
There is also a growing presence of tiny plastic particles that shred off of larger items such as plastic bags, bottles and clothing. According to UN News, "as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles—500 times more than stars in our galaxy—litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife."
The campaign's organizers want to banish plastic pollution from entering the world's seas before it's too late.
"It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans," Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, said. "Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We've stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop."
The program is also calling on consumers to shrink their own plastic footprint, from bringing reusable bags to avoiding cosmetics with microbeads.
"I support the Clean Seas campaign because I believe there are better alternatives to single-use disposable plastics, and that we as consumers can encourage innovation and ask businesses to take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they produce," Jack Johnson, a musician and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, said.
"We can all start today by making personal commitments to reduce plastic waste by carrying reusable shoppings bags and water bottles, saying no to straws and choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging. We can also support the efforts of the emerging youth leaders around the world working for healthy and plastic free oceans," Johnson said.
The singer-songwriter is also promoting a new documentary The Smog of the Sea, which highlights the problem of microplastics. Watch here:
Companies such as DELL are also onboard with the UNEP clean seas campaign. In a tech industry first, the computer company announced this week it will use packaging trays with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. The pilot project will keep 16,000 pounds of plastics out of the ocean, the company said.
"DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean," said Piyush Bhargava, vice president for global operations. "Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP's vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused."
Other major announcements are expected at the upcoming The Ocean conference at the UN Headquarters in New York in June, and UN the Environment Assembly in Nairobi in December, according to UNEP.
"The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year," said Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly. "Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country [can] do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the Ocean."
Looks like you'll have to trust your map if you want to find the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.
By Steve Horn
After taking heat last fall for destroying sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the owner of the Dakota Access pipeline finds itself embattled anew over the preservation of historic sites, this time in Ohio.
The plan provides billions in subsidies for renewable energy, bans the construction of new nuclear plants and decommissions Switzerland's five aging reactors. There is no clear date when the plants will close.
By Alex Kirby
An ambitious scientific expedition is due to start work on May 22 on Bolivia's second-highest mountain, Illimani. The researchers plan to drill three ice cores from the Illimani glacier, and to store two of them in Antarctica as the start of the world's first ice archive.
Although not on most people's radar here, New York is one step closer to becoming the first state to have genetically modified, non-sterile insects released outside without cages.
The viral video of a young girl snatched off a Richmond, British Columbia dock by a sea lion is another reminder that people shouldn't get too close to wild animals.
Port officials in Canada have sharply criticized the family for putting themselves at risk for feeding the large animal, especially since there are several signs in the area warning people not to do so.
Flooding breached a supposedly impregnable Arctic "doomsday" vault containing a collection of seeds stored for an apocalypse scenario last week, after warmer-than-average temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to thaw.