The recent G7 meetings ended in disaster, and it was especially bad as far as the struggle to eliminate plastics from the oceans is concerned. The United States as well as Japan refused to ratify an engagement on that issue while Canada and most European countries agreed to sign a new charter against pollution from plastics.
The new charter would attempt to recycle 100% of all plastics by 2030 as well as developing alternatives to the use of plastics. By recycling more less plastics would be found in rivers as well as in the oceans.
It seems that the United States objected to putting numbers in this charter. In other words, it was the same old thing from the Americans. Still, the trend is clear, countries know that we have a problem with plastics and something must be done, sooner rather than later. Hopefully Americans as well as the Japanese will come around to face the facts. Japan especially should sign the charter eventually as they consume large quantities of products from the sea and would be impacted if less fish is captured.
The European Commission has proposed to clean up the beaches and waterways of the union. The measures would reduce or alter the consumption and production of the top ten plastic items that are usually found on beaches and in waterways.
Already several European countries have begun to reduce waste from plastics. It is a popular measure as more than 85% of people polled wanted the European Union to enforce strong measures.
Among proposed measures would be the banning of single-use plastics, the further development of deposit-refund systems and the member states would aim to collect for recycling 90% of all plastic bottles by 2025.
Naturally one can expect a backlash from the various producers of plastics. Most are vocal opponents of bans and insist that voluntary initiatives are enough. But anyone who has seen the large patches of plastics in the oceans knows that we need regulations to eliminate the problem, not wishful thinking.
I recently read an article that described how dirty the world’s major rivers were. It seems that more than two million tons of plastics are transported to the oceans by them. About 122 rivers contribute 90% of the plastic found in the oceans, and 103 of these rivers are in Asia. Twenty rivers in Asia contribute 67% of the plastic.
The problem of plastics in the oceans is such that the United Nations world conference on the oceans has decided to take a serious look at it. More than 80% of what is found in the oceans consists of plastics, most of which comes from the continents.
Because the use of plastics is a recent phenomena its influence on the oceans began to be scrutinize only around the year 2000 by scientists. It was then that continents of floating islands of plastics were discovered and are now well known.
That Asian rivers are heavily polluted is no surprise, especially considering the rapid pace of development since the 1970’s and 1980’s. Perhaps by pointing out the obvious at the United Nations world conference on the oceans solutions will be presented and the Asian nations will seek help as a lot of these countries are still too poor to embark alone on a program of cleaning up their rivers.
It seems that scientists have discovered something that could have great consequences in reducing pollution from plastic bags. Caterpillars of the greater wax moth seem to have the ability to degrade polyethylene, the material used in plastic bags.
Scientists have exposed a hundred wax worms of the caterpillar moth to a plastic bag and holes appeared after 40 minutes. It seems that it is the chemicals in the caterpillars that break down the plastics and not the chewing of the plastics by the worms.
Hopefully if a single enzyme is responsible for this degradation then it could be possible to reproduce on a large scale using technology. Polyethylene represents 40% of the total demand for plastic products. It would therefore be possible to get rid of the plastic wastes that have accumulated in landfills as well as in the oceans. A truly remarkable discovery!
This is sad but true; a lot of our plastics are finding their way into Arctic waters. The world’s oceans are littered by these plastics coming from bottles, bags and others articles, most of which are mostly tiny particles of plastic.
The fault for this littering is due to an ocean current mainly from the North Atlantic that carries these bits of plastics and leaves them on the surface of the frigid waters and possibly even on the ocean floor.
Every year more than 8 million tons of plastic get into the oceans and scientists estimate that 110 million tons of plastic are in the oceans. This pollution has already made its way into the food chain and no one knows the effects it has on life, including on us.
Most of the plastic found in the Arctic waters is in fragments, and small at that. Other plastics were in the form of fishing line, film or pellets. Most scientist think that only an international agreement could solve the issue of plastic pollution. Good luck with that with an American president who thinks climate change is not true.