A new report from the UCLA School of Law's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability calls for a coordinated approach to fight what it calls "one of the most significant problems facing the world's marine environments," plastic marine pollution. According to a release:
"Plastic marine litter is a growing global environmental threat imposing major economic costs on industry and government," said report co-author Mark Gold, an associate director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Marine plastic pollution slowly degrades and has spread to every corner of the world's oceans, from remote islands to the ocean floor. Voluntary half-measures are not preventing devastating global impacts to marine life, the economy and public health. Although there is no one panacea, we have identified the top 10 plastic pollution-prevention actions that can be implemented now to begin drastically reducing plastic marine litter."
Pollution prevention actions called for in the report include: a new international treaty with strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms; domestic and local regulatory actions, such as bans of the most common and damaging types of plastic litter; producer responsibility programs; and the creation of an "ocean friendly" certification program for plastic products.
The problem of plastic marine pollution is only growing; the UCLA report estimates that nearly 20 million tons of plastic enters the ocean environment annually. Unless we take action to reduce the proliferation of disposable plastic items like grocery bags and polystyrene food containers, taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for clean up. And wildlife, even tiny freshwater species, will be at risk due to accidental ingestion.
The next time you’re considering using a disposable plastic item, like a grocery bag or food container, think for a moment. Is there a more sustainable alternative? Consider how long that item will stay in the environment before you throw it away. Can you reuse or recycle it? Better yet, refuse it altogether.
Find out more about CAW’s Plastic Litter and Waste Reduction Campaign.