Dr Lisa Emelia Svensson
Director for Ocean, the UN Environment
Our addiction to single-use plastic is destroying our oceans at an ever-increasing pace. Urgent action is needed if we are going save them from irrepreable harm.
Every year, we dump up to 13 million tonnes of plastic into our oceans, harming marine plants and animals and potentially also human health. Unless we act now, our addiction to single-use plastic items, such as straws and plastic bags, will destroy our oceans for future generations.
In order to prevent this from happening, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about plastic. We need to stop treating it as a material that we can just throw away immediately after use, and start thinking of it as something that has real value. As part of this change, we need governments to build robust legislation, and consumers to use both their voice and their wallets to let producers know they won’t stand for unenecessary plastic use.
Ultimately though, this is a problem of design. The way in which we’ve designed our manufacturing, distribution, consumption and trade systems – indeed our global economy – needs to change. The linear model of planned obsolescence, in which items are designed to be thrown away immediately after use, sometime after just seconds, needs to itself become obsolete.
Just like climate change, plastic pollution is not something that, once it hits, is even remotely easy to reverse. And just like climate change, it requires us to collectively slam on the brakes. No one can solve the problem of marine litter alone, but we can all do something. We have no time to lose. It is time to turn the tide on plastic!