Assembly President launches new initiative to purge plastics and purify oceans

UNEP/Cyril Villemain Local people from Watamu, Kenya, work with Local Ocean Conservation to pick up plastic on the beach.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The President of the UN General Assembly launched a new global call to action on Tuesday, to help end the scourge of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, that her Campaign Against Plastic Pollution – a priority during her year in office –  will hold both consumers and decision-makers accountable, urging the phasing out of single-use plastics such as water bottles, and raising awareness of the impact plastic pollution has on human and environmental health.

“It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Microplastics are now confirmed in table salt, in fresh water, each person on the planet is believed to have plastic in their bodies,” she cited in her statement

“I intend to leverage the capacity of the office of the President of the General Assembly, to support ongoing global campaigns to beat plastic pollution. This will include complementary efforts by UN Environment, Global Citizen and National Geographic, amongst others.”

According to the UN’s climate agency, UN environment (UNEP), more than eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean annually; that’s equal to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute, at a cost of around $8 billion, in damage to marine ecosystems.

The Assembly President said the campaign is comprised of two elements: global advocacy, and internal initiatives to reduce plastics use within the UN.

This is not the first time the UN has put the scourge of alarming plastic debris at the head of its priorities. In 2010 the “Greening the Blue” campaign was launched to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability throughout the UN system and encourage staff members to reduce, reuse and recycle.

During this year’s high-level week of the General Assembly, UNEP launched the Global Plastics Platform, a network to foster commitments to reduce plastic pollution by exploring innovative designs, and methods of consumption and disposal of plastics around the world.

Last year, the agency headed up the Clean Seas campaign to urge a ban on single-use plastic, after findings revealed there were 500 times more microplastic particles littering the ocean, than there are stars in the galaxy.

Ms. Espinosa has previously pledged her commitment to the issue; specifying the environment and a ban on plastics among the seven top priorities on her agenda as Assembly President.

She announced that in Spring 2019, the initiative to stamp out plastic will be highlighted by events across the globe; including one celebrating innovative progress in New York City, a concert in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, and a photo exhibit at the UN General Assembly to coincide with World Environment Day.

Join us in groundbreaking plastics ban, urges PM

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Gaston Browne, announced that the concert was set for April 27th to coincide with Antigua ‘Sailing Week’.  It will include regional and internationally renowned musicians and artists and will highlight efforts to tackle the problem globally.

He noted that Antigua and Barbuda had been successful in the elimination of single use plastics. “During the past two years, we have introduced a ban, which has worked very well…Antigua and Barbuda is the first country in the Caribbean to do so. We need to protect our oceans and we are calling on all nations to join us in banning the use of single use plastics.”

Norway’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ms Mari Skåre, affirmed: “We are strong supporters of the initiative and the reason is that we have a problem with plastic pollution. Norway knows this. We know it is a health problem for the oceans and for humans. Fish eat plastic, humans eat fish”, she said.

“The good news is that we have solutions. We can solve this. This is why this global campaign is so important. If you are consumers, use your own bottle. We want to pull our weight in finding good, clean solutions for our common future.”

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