Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

UN commits to end ocean plastics

UN commits to end ocean plastics
14 Dec
2017
The UN has committed to completely stopping plastic waste from entering the ocean

At a meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly on 6 December, delegates agreed to establish a task force to advise on combating the global crisis of oceanic plastic pollution.

‘An estimated 4.4 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic are added to the oceans annually,’ according to scientists for the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), arguing before the UN resolution for why international consensus is needed. ‘More than 50 per cent of the ocean’s area sits beyond national jurisdiction, including the infamous “garbage patches” in oceanic gyres where plastic accumulates.’

The new resolution, agreed in Nairobi, urges all countries to, ‘by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.’

While this is an important step towards reducing and eventually eliminating plastic waste from the ocean, the UN resolution has no timetable and is not legally binding. It is also a significantly watered down version of the original motion. A stronger commitment was rejected after the US would not agree to any specific, internationally-agreed goals.

MPCA Photos ccflickr microbeads

A particular emphasis was put on tackling microbeads, stressing ‘the urgent need for strengthened knowledge on the levels and effects of micro- and nanoplastics on marine ecosystems, seafood and human health.’

Each year billions of these tiny beads end up in our seas from a range of products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. They build up in the marine environment and can be swallowed by sea life, including fish and crustaceans.

‘Microplastics can impair reproduction and development and alter how species function, disperse, and assemble,’ says PNAS, which makes them a particularly serious threat to marine ecosystems.

In the UK last year, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced plans to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads.

‘Adding plastic to products like face washes and body scrubs is wholly unnecessary when harmless alternatives can be used,’ said Leadsom speaking in 2016. ‘This government is committed to its promise to be the first generation ever to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited, and together we can bring an end to these harmful plastics clogging up our oceans.’

red line

NEVER MISS A STORY

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

With the war against plastic gaining publicity and popularity, one…

Wildlife

India’s booming domestic dog population is attacking some of the…

Energy

Soaring sales of air conditioning units over the next thirty…

Climate

Well-meaning promises and actions don't always have the best outcomes.…

Geophoto

With the days at their longest and more light in…

Oceans

Tourism might be an economic pillar for many countries surrounding…

Wildlife

Brain sizes directly shown to correlate to survival rates among…

Wildlife

Celebrated author Professor Tim Birkhead provides a fascinating insight into…

Oceans

The world’s most biodiverse seagrass region – Indonesia’s Coral Triangle…

Oceans

Ocean conservation group urges world governments to step up action…

Climate

As climate conditions at the 100th meridian, the traditional United…

Climate

International shipping may be attempting to reduce its carbon footprint, but…

Geophoto

So much photographic theory is dedicated to image sharpness that…

Wildlife

Changing temperatures in East Africa are set to upset a delicate…

Climate

As the planet warms and tensions rise, Marco Magrini finds that…

Oceans

A deep-sea mission in the ocean around Bermuda confirms the…

Oceans

An oxygen-deprived ‘dead zone’ in the Arabian Sea is much…

Wildlife

Scientists working with new drone technology are hoping to reveal…

Oceans

A new virtual reality experience, ‘BBC Earth: Life in VR’,…

Nature

Faced with protecting a country more than 30 times the…