Dear Editor – The UK Government has earmarked 61.4 million pounds from the public purse to fight plastic pollution in the seas.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced the fund ahead of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London a few weeks ago.
At CHOGM she called on all of the 52 leaders present to sign up to the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance – a strategy to help developing Commonwealth nations research and improve waste management.
Four Commonwealth countries have already joined the UK in the alliance – New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Ghana.
A statement from the UK Prime Minister’s office later said £25m of the fund would be used to help researchers investigate the issue of marine plastic from a scientific, economic and social perspective.
A further £20m would be used to curb plastic and other environmental pollution generated by manufacturing in developing countries and prevent it entering the oceans.
The remaining £16.4m would be devoted to improving waste management at a national and a city level to stop plastics entering the water.
Speaking before CHOGM, the prime minister said: “We will look closely at how we can tackle the many threats to the health of the world’s oceans, including the scourge of marine plastic pollution.
“As one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the world today it is vital that we tackle this issue, so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.
“The UK public has shown passion and energy in the fight against plastic waste, and I believe the Commonwealth is uniquely placed to further this transformative action.”
Britain, which co-chaired the CHOGM event with Vanuatu, called on Commonwealth nations to follow the UK’s lead in banning micro beads and cutting down on single use plastic bags.
In the region close to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and some Australian states have already banned single-use plastics, while New Zealand says it is considering it.
It was announced yesterday, Sunday 24 June 2018 by Radio New Zealand that Samoa is now looking to ban all single-use plastic from next January.
The Radio New Zealand news bulletin, from which I will quote, gave some disturbing facts which should heighten our intentions to protect our seas and marine creatures.
Quote: Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand.
“A Samoa government statement said the ban will initially target single-use plastic bags and straws, with an eventual goal of widening the ban to include plastic and Styrofoam containers and cups.
“This issue is too large to for us to sit by without taking any action,” said Ulu Bismarck Crawley, the chief executive of the environment ministry, referring to the global problem of plastic waste in the ocean.
“Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, with that volume expected to increase significantly in coming years.”
“Millions of whales, birds, seals, turtles and fish are killed when they mistake plastic for food, or when they become ensnared in packaging. Recent studies found a plastic bag at the deepest point of the ocean, the North Pacific’s Marianas Trench, and toxins from plastics have been found to be leaching into the food chain worldwide.
“A lot of the litter from Samoa’s capital, Apia, ends up in the harbour. The government hopes a ban on single-use plastic will begin to address this.
“And that’s before considering the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre of plastic debris about three times the size of France that’s congregated in the northeast Pacific, and has recently been found to be growing rapidly.
“By making these changes as a nation, our positive impact will be felt not only by us in Samoa, but also by our global community,” said Ulu.
“While Samoa contributes little to the global plastic problem, Ulu said it would be wrong for the country to not join the global fight against plastic.
“The country’s use of plastic increased by more than 20 percent between 2011 and last year, according to research by the environment ministry, with the country disposing more than 33,000 tonnes of rubbish – about 20 percent of which is plastic.
“Like most Pacific countries, recycling programmes are expensive and prohibitive, with countries having to fork out large sums to ship small quantities over a vast distance. Most of the rubbish generated ends up in landfill.
“The government said about 70 percent of all the litter in the country’s waterways and ocean was plastic, which presented a huge threat to the country’s marine life.”
With the global momentum on the scourge of plastic in the ocean it is hoped that the Solomon Islands, with perhaps the help of Britain, New Zealand and Vanuatu will begin considering alternative methods of waste disposal and also consider banning and effectively enforcing laws on the use of single-use plastic.