Nairobi, Dec. 6 (IANS): In a major collaboration to make the oceans litter-free, four more countries — Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa — on Wednesday joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign by committing measures that include plastic bag bans, new marine reserves and drives to increase recycling. Forty countries are now part of the campaign.
While Sri Lanka has made a commitment to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from the next year, South Africa will step up its beach cleanup programme.
The four countries announced their support on the last day of the three-day long UN Environment Assembly in this Kenyan capital.
“For too long, we have treated the ocean as a bottomless dumping ground for plastic, sewage and other waste,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim said in a statement.
“The countries supporting Clean Seas are showing the leadership we need in order to end this abuse, and protect the marine resources on which millions depend for their livelihoods.”
Sri Lankan Environment Minister Anura Dissanayake said: “Sri Lanka is taking bold action to turn the tide on plastics.”
“We have banned plastic bags and are now working to reduce the number of plastic bottles in the country. We want to be a green and blue beacon of hope in Asia and do everything we can to keep the seas clean.”
Sri Lanka has made a commitment to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from January 1, 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste and set the goal of making its ocean and coasts “pollution-free” by 2030, a UN Environment spokesperson told IANS.
Chile is legislating to extend producer responsibility and encourage recycling and establishing more marine protected areas, while South Africa will step up its beach cleanup programme and prioritise action on tyres, electronic waste, lighting and paper and packaging.
Nearly 40 countries from Kenya to Canada and Indonesia to Brazil have joined the #CleanSeas campaign which aims to counter the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading our oceans and endangering the life they sustain.
The countries account for more than half of the world’s coastline.
Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption — a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.
The flow of pollution means detritus such as drinks bottles and flip-flops — as well as tiny plastic fragments, including microbeads used in cosmetics — are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle.
Studies say humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and are adding it to the ocean at a rate of eight million tonnes a year.
As well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.
On India’s strategies and policies to counter marine litter, Sam Barratt, Chief Public Advocacy and Communication with the UN Environment, told IANS: “We are seeing movement in some states in the country (India) when it comes to clean seas.”
“We work very closely with Afroz Shah in eliminating plastic waste from the beaches of Mumbai. What we need to do is to work with industries upstream. When we clean beaches, we are creating awareness, citizens are seeing what’s happening on the ground.”
“Also, we need to work on the different types of plastic bags initiatives, whether it’s people paying a small tax or micron bags which can be reused. India is moving so quickly on so many environmental fronts, and the whole clean initiative by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi is very positive,” he added.