UN Hopes to Reduce Ocean Plastic Waste Within Five Years
This month, a new era began in the fight against plastic pollution.
In 2019, 187 nations within the United Nations amended the 1989 Basel Convention, which governs trade in hazardous materials, to include plastic waste. The historic treaty created a legally binding framework to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) said in a press release.
The amendment to the Basel Convention, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, will result in a cleaner ocean within five years and allow developing nations like Vietnam and Malaysia to refuse low-quality and difficult-to-recycle waste before it ever gets shipped, a UN transboundary waste chief told The Guardian.
"It is my optimistic view that, in five years, we will see results," Rolph Payet, the executive director of the Basel Convention, told The Guardian. "People on the frontline are going to be telling us whether there is a decrease of plastic in the ocean. I don't see that happening in the next two to three years, but on the horizon of five years. This amendment is just the beginning."
"Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern, has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 100 million tons of plastic now found in the oceans, 80-90 percent of which comes from land-based sources," the UNEP release noted, explaining a primary rationale behind the amendment's passage.
Once in the oceans, plastic continues to cause harm. It degrades into microplastics, which end up in our seafood and ultimately us. A recent study also found that plastic pollution increases ocean acidification.
The amendment now requires "prior notice and consent" in writing from importing and transit countries before shipping plastic waste for recycling, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained. Exporting countries must detail whether a shipment is mixed or contaminated. If permission isn't granted to receive the goods, they must remain in their country of origin.
The new international rule aims to level the playing field between wealthy nations that dump contaminated plastic waste and poorer ones that have traditionally received it. According to The Guardian, before the new rule, shipments containing contaminated, non-recyclable and low-quality plastics were often sold to developing nations for recycling. After China refused to continue accepting contaminated waste in 2018, the onus fell on other developing nations to accept it, a 2020 Greenpeace report found. Once received, the waste was often illegally burned or dumped in landfills and waterways because it was unusable and unrecyclable.
Heng Kiah Chun, a Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner, called the impact from illegally dumping plastic waste from more than 19 countries worldwide "an indelible mark" left throughout Southeast Asia, the report added.
According to the EPA, the Basel Convention made an exception for pre-sorted, clean, uncontaminated and recycling-bound plastic scrap: it will not be subject to informed consent requirements. The idea is to encourage exports of commercially viable plastics for recycling rather than the unrestricted dumping of plastic trash that previously occurred.
In Dec. 2020, the European Union passed additional regulations that are even stricter than the Basel Convention amendment, including a ban on sending unsorted plastic waste, which is harder to recycle, to poorer countries.
Despite leading the world in plastic waste, the U.S. did not agree to the amendment in 2019. However, the amendment still applies to the U.S. anytime it tries to trade plastic waste with another of the 187 participating countries, CNN reported.
Rather than framing the plastic problem as an issue between developed and developing nations, some critics would rather see commercial producers take responsibility. Others, noting that recycling models, especially in the U.S., aren't working, are encouraging a cultural shift away from using plastics, stemming the problem of plastic pollution at the source.
Nevertheless, the convention is a "crucial first step towards stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world's plastic waste, especially those coming from rich nations," Von Hernandez, Break Free From Plastic global coordinator, told CNN.
"Countries at the receiving end of mixed and unsorted plastic waste from foreign sources now have the right to refuse these problematic shipments, in turn compelling source countries to ensure exports of clean, recyclable plastics only," Hernandez added. "Recycling will not be enough, however. Ultimately, production of plastics has to be significantly curtailed to effectively resolve the plastic pollution crisis."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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