Governing an Ocean of Plastics
The ocean provides livelihoods for millions of people around the world and absorbs up to a third of global carbon-dioxide emissions. But with the health of maritime ecosystems threatened by plastic pollution, a new international treaty is urgently needed.
BREMEN – Images of plastic pollution in the ocean and on beaches are now commonplace, and the problem is likely to get worse. Last week, the OECD’s first Global Plastics Outlook revealed a dramatic increase in the plastic waste leaked into aquatic environments. That report came only a month after the World Wildlife Fund for Nature released a study that projects a doubling of microplastics in the ocean over the next few decades.
While there are promising innovations that extract plastic from the ocean or intercept it in rivers, these projects will barely make a dent in the amount of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways. Even under the most optimistic projections, these technologies will affect only 5-10% of all plastic in the ocean.
More than 1,000 organizations, including businesses and governments, have signed on to a plan for a new, circular economy for plastics. But this kind of voluntary action also is not enough.