Plastic Pollution in the Oceans – What is being done?

25 Apr 2019

Category: Eco

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What is Being Done to Combat Plastic Pollution in the Ocean?

Did you know, about 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year? That’s a massive amount – in fact, it’s a truckload every single minute.

As well as individuals taking responsibility for plastic pollution, and making small changes ourselves, we rely on governments and corporations to make changes. So, what is being done by those at the top?

Greenpeace

Charity, Greenpeace is campaigning to end the flow of plastic in the ocean. The environment-focused charity states that they are ‘calling on big corporations to act to reduce their plastic footprint – and stop producing excessive plastic packaging that is designed to be used once then thrown away.’

They are also ‘calling on governments’ to act to tackle the plastic pollution problem. Doing so by creating ‘closed-loop systems that allow us to recover and reuse materials rather than waste them.’ Reusing materials and preventing their journey into the oceans in the first place is obviously one way to stop plastic pollution. But, what happens when plastic is already in the ocean? Ocean clean-up projects play an important role.

Can the ocean actually be cleaned up?

You may or may not have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s as bad as it sounds. A huge, floating mass of plastic debris in the middle of the Pacific ocean. According to a new report from The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers 1.6 million square kilometres or 617,000 square miles.

This monumental pile of floating rubbish was tackled in 2018, as part of a giant cleanup effort by a Dutch nonprofit organisation. Unfortunately, the patch proved too tricky to combat, and the ocean-cleaning boom that was designed to collect the rubbish and tow it back to shore came back to shore in two pieces. Not quite the desired effect.

Though unsuccessful in their mission, praise still came about for the Ocean Cleanup. Nicholas Mallos, director of the Trash Free Seas program at the Ocean Conservancy,  was just one supporter.

He insisted the mission helped play a part in turning world attention to a major environmental problem. But he said ‘stopping plastics before they enter the ocean from beaches and local waterways was a more effective approach, along with reducing overall plastic use.’

Where does the government come in?

We’ve all seen the effect of the plastic bag charge come into play. The 5p charge has meant a huge reduction in overall plastic waste. Due to the success of the initiative, the government are now going to double the charge to 10p, to further discourage the use of the single-use plastic bags.

Further than the plastic bag charge, the government are also urging school leaders to replace plastic items such as straws, bottles and food packaging with ‘sustainable alternatives’ by 2022.

The main plastic pollution initiative that the UK has launched is the 25-year plan. The plan is to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2043.

What’s been done?

So far, as a nation, we have:

  • Banned microbeads
  • Started charging for plastic bags – resulting in a 90% drop in use.
  • Encouraged the use of re-usable straws – some bars and chain restaurants now do not display them.
  • Encouraged reusable water bottles by providing free refill points across the UK.
  • Started a conversation around charging for disposable coffee cups – a 25p latte levy.

What incentives would you like to see put into place by the government?