News / Science & Technology

UN: Plastic Accounts for $13B in Damage to Marine Habitat

UN: Plastic Accounts for $13B in Damage to Marine Habitati
X
Rosanne Skirble
June 28, 2014 12:34 AM
It is hard to imagine a world without plastic. Plastic keeps our food fresh and protects medicine. It is used in all kinds of consumer products, from electronics to fountain pens. But while plastic is a $374 billion industry in the United States alone, it also has become a major global environmental headache, littering roads and contaminating waterways. In this report, VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the impact of plastic on the world’s ecosystems, and what to do about it.
UN: Plastic Accounts for $13B in Damage to Marine Habitat
Rosanne Skirble

As World Cup play continues across Brazil, the country is gearing up to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Among the concerns is that the sailing venue near Rio de Janeiro is too polluted to hold any event, says local biologist Mario Moscatelli.
   
“The Brazilian authorities seem like they live in a parallel universe in a world of rose-colored glasses that has a different smell, different colors, that doesn’t have the trash we see floating and accumulating in the mangroves along Guanabara,” he says.    

The same story is playing out globally. Plastic accounts for $13 billion in damage to marine habitat, according to a United Nations report released at this week's Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

Plastic that washes from roads into streams and rivers, eventually makes its way to beaches and oceans. Over time, it accumulates in the water column. It never goes away because plastic is synthetic and doesn’t biodegrade, it just simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.  

UN: Plastic Accounts for $13 billion in Damage to Marine Habitat
UN: Plastic Accounts for $13 billion in Damage to Marine Habitati
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“There are chemicals in plastic that can leach out into oceans, but then there are also a lot of chemicals and pollutants in the oceans," said Nancy Wallace, who heads the Marine Debris Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "So things like DDT that are outlawed now, but their legacy compounds that are still in the ocean, they will go on to the plastics because of the properties and because of that they are on those plastics when the fish are ingesting them.”

That potentially moves dangerous toxins up the food chain and back to human consumers. Humans cause the problem and humans can solve it, Wallace adds.

“By using less single use items, by recycling our items, by disposing of those properly and making sure they’re going where they should be going," she said. "We can really make a huge difference. It’s really about caring about the environment and knowing that we are the ones that impact it.”

Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost, the company that calculated the $13 billion marine damage figures, points out that the report promotes an alternative: a business model that opens new markets for sustainable plastic products.

“You could replace the use of virgin raw materials for plastic, which is oil, with bio-based products," he said. "You could reduce the energy intensity of plastics production by using renewable energy resources. You could reuse bottles in your households many times if you wish to, rather than ending it off after the first use. We could when we get rid of that plastics, recycle it and reuse it, which replaces the need for virgin raw materials.”

The report calls for companies to better measure, manage and disclose information about the use and disposal of plastics, says Andrew Russell, Director of the Plastic Disclosure Project, which released the report at the Nairobi meeting.

“We see the opportunities for them to save money, quite frankly," Russell said. "We also see them to be much more aware, much more cognizant of risks they face in the environment from a reputation perspective, or from a regulatory perspective. If they think about plastic the way they do other things, then I think these opportunities will present themselves.”  

Russell says that by putting a new value on plastic, industry has an incentive to clean up the environment, but adds that all sectors of society must join to address the problem.

 

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More