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

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid