193 nations sign pledge to tackle 'global crisis' of plastic in the oceans
A turtle filmed caught in plastic on Blue Planet II CREDIT: BBC
Britain has joined nearly 200 countries in signing up to a United Nations resolution to eliminate plastic in the sea.
If current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, said the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which organised the meeting.
Eight million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain. WWF said the world was currently in the grip of a 'global crisis'.
Under the resolution, which was signed by all 193 members of the UN. countries agreed to start monitoring the amount of plastic they put into the ocean and to explore ways to make it illegal to dump waste in the seas.
Britain has already taken some steps to cut down on plastic waste, including the 5p plastic bag charge and a recent ban on microbeads. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is also currently considering bringing back bottle banks to encourage people to recycle their plastic bottles.
Theresa May also hinted this week that foreign aid funding will be diverted to help tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
Every year eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean
Every year eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean CREDIT: BBC
“There is very strong language in this resolution,” Norway’s environment minister, Vidar Helgesen, told Reuters.
“We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.”
Norway, which initiated the resolution, has seen the evidence of the damage the pollution causes first hand, he said.
“We found micro plastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat,” Mr Helgesen added.
“In January this year, a fairly rare species of whale was stranded on a beach because of exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In its tummy they found 30 plastic bags.”
UNEP head Erik Solheim said eventually wanted to see governments ban and redesign some packaging, such as drinking straws.
“Let’s abolish products that we do not need ... if you go to tourist places like Bali, a huge amount of the plastic picked from the oceans are actually straws.”
Plastic can now be found on most of the world's beaches and even in deepest parts of the ocean
Plastic can now be found on most of the world's beaches and even in deepest parts of the ocean CREDIT: IMAS/JENNIFER LAVERS HANDOUT
39 governments also announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea.
Dr Lyndsey Dodds, Head of Marine Policy at WWF said: “We are in the grips of a global crisis. Our oceans and beaches are drowning in plastic, and with more and more people consuming plastic goods it is only going getting worse. What we now need is a strong and ambitious global convention to eliminate plastics entering our seas.
“The UK Government has already shown their willingness to clamp down on single use plastics but they must now step up to the plate and take a leading role across the world.”