Ocean Action Hub

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SDG 14: stepping up international efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution

23 Dec 2019 - A new, binding international agreement is recommended to address the shortcomings of the global plastic waste trade and eliminate discharge of plastics into the (marine) envi

23 Dec 2019 - A new, binding international agreement is recommended to address the shortcomings of the global plastic waste trade and eliminate discharge of plastics into the (marine) environment. Worldwide attention to marine plastics has led to an unprecedented momentum to implement far-reaching measures. It is upon state leaders to grasp this opportunity and stop treating our oceans as a final dump for plastic wastes and to preserve the vital role the oceans play for our planet.

Eight to twelve million tons of plastics end up in the oceans every year. One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), Goal 14 on life below water, calls upon states to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris, by 2025. Following China’s ban of all imports of non-industrial plastic wastes in 2018, exports of plastic wastes by high-income countries have shifted to South East Asian countries putting unbearable stress on their waste management systems. Despite worldwide attention devoted to the ocean plastics crisis, these practices are likely to aggravate the problem. It shows that current efforts are not sufficient to achieve the SDG target 14 for marine plastic litter and microplastics.

China and South East Asia are considered the largest plastic polluters of the oceans. Strong economic growth in this region has not gone hand in hand with a parallel development of waste management systems. Nevertheless, high-income countries are exporting significant amounts of plastic waste intended for recycling to this region. Weaker environmental regulations and law enforcement in these countries make treatment of plastic wastes more competitive. Discrepancies in environmental standards are driving forces for transboundary movements for all sorts of waste from industrialized countries to emerging and developing economies.

Half of all plastic waste intended for recycling (14 million tons/annum) is exported by high-income countries. These waste streams are often mixed or contaminated, rendering them more difficult (or impossible) to recycle. Before the 2018 import ban, China was importing half of their plastic scrap (7 million tons). High-income countries integrate these exports in their “recycling” statistics without monitoring the fate of this plastic scrap in the importing country. CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: http://f3magazine.unicri.it/?p=1928 

About the Author: Jivan Dasgupta is a senior researcher at Ghent University (Belgium), Department of International, Public and European Law. His research primarily focuses on the development of a legal framework to tackle marine plastics and deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Prior to his academic activities, Jivan Dasgupta was a lawyer at the Brussels bar (Belgium) and served as advisor to a Belgian Deputy Prime Minister on energy and maritime transport policy. He also acted as in-house legal counsel for companies active in renewable energy, waste treatment and the development of maritime infrastructures and industrial zones.