Ocean Conservancy on Wednesday released a report that proposes a four-point solution to cutting ocean plastic waste by 45 percent by 2025 with the ultimate goal of eradicating the issue by 2035.
Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean is a first-of-its-kind, solutions-oriented report in partnership with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment that outlines specific, land-based solutions for plastic waste in the ocean, starting with the elimination of plastic waste leakage in five priority countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
The report estimates that total costs for implementing these solutions could be contained at $5 billion a year, with significant returns to the global economy.
Eight million metric tons of plastic leak into the world's ocean every year and the amounts continue to grow, Ocean Conservancy says. Without concerted global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, leading to massive environmental, economic and health issues. And at least 80 percent of ocean plastic originates from land-based sources.
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The report underscores the important role of businesses in driving the solutions and catalyzing public and private investment to solve the problem of ocean plastic leakage.
In the short and medium term, the report calls for accelerated development of waste collection and plugging of post-collection leakage, followed by the development and rollout of commercially viable treatment options.
In the long term, the report identifies the critical need for innovations in recovery and treatment technologies, development of new materials and product designs that better facilitate reuse or recycling.
There is a need for all approaches and solutions to be tailored at the regional level, the report says, specifically in the five priority countries identified — which account for half of all plastic leakage globally. Although countries have made major improvements in curbing plastic leakage, greater global support is needed to scale impact swiftly in these priority regions.
The next 10 years will be critical to effectively solving the problem of ocean plastic, the report warns. To achieve success, a concerted global response driven by an international coalition of companies, governments and NGOs will need to catalyze commitments from political leadership, provide local "proofs of concept," provide waste management technology support and prioritize the ocean plastic waste issue as part of the global policy agenda on the ocean and the environment.
More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tons, are floating in the world’s oceans and causing damage throughout the food chain, according to research by the 5 Gyres Institute — and there’s even more littering the ocean floor.
Earlier this year, 20-year-old Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat made headlines when he claimed to have created a method for cost-effectively cleaning up ocean plastic waste. Set to launch next year, The Ocean Cleanup will passively collect plastic debris in the waters between Japan and South Korea, near the island group of Tsushima. The system will act as a barrier, trapping floating debris and allowing ships to pick it up using a conveyor belt 7,900 times faster than current methods, and at just 3 percent of the current cost.