Comments on the recent UNEP Land Ocean Connections Conference in Montego
Bay, and an interesting proposal from 5 Gyres "to bring an international
coalition of waste people and industry together to find a funding mechanism
to tackle just ONE nation's [marine debris] problem."
See the full blog
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Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2013 10:30 AM
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Subject: [MarineDebris] Plastics, Industry, Nonprofits and Thoughts on
Solutions from A UNEP Land Ocean Connections Conference
Last week I had the pleasure (and pain) of representing The 5 Gyres
Institute at the second UNEP Global Land Ocean Connections conference in
Montego Bay, Jamaica. The pleasure came from meeting with an international
coalition of groups all devoted to solving the marine eco-disaster that is
plastic pollution. The pain came from being trapped in a hotel looking at an
ocean that I desperately wanted to swim in-after all, that's why I do what I
do; I love being in the ocean.
Inside, marathon meetings were norm, working roughly 12 hour days trying to
build a global framework for dealing with upstream sources of plastic
pollution. Topics included emerging technologies- incineration, cradle to
cradle recycling, community engagement and plastic to fuel processing.
What was missing was a conversation on source reductions- that is, as global
society, using less plastic. One of the largest issues we face with
persistent plastic pollution is that we keep using more of it, despite new
technologies aimed at dealing with it, end of life. Every year, more ends up
in the environment, and it doesn't go away. As an NGO, or as
environmentalists in general, we're often accused of being anti-business.
Being considered pro-business, as of now, means being pro-business as status
quo. In a breakout session, David Osborn, UNEP's Coordinator for Ecosystems
Management played devil's advocate asking the question to stakeholders, "Why
would industry want to be a part of The Marine Litter Partnership?" Indeed,
the very partnership we were all there to build a framework for. But the
problem with this exercise is that it's predicated on the fact that industry
is fueled by growth, and if you make plastic, that means you need to make
and sell more. I'm afraid that where we are right now is already over the
edge to some degree- we can't necessarily worry about the health and welfare
of a polluting industry over the damage done to the environment. Plastic is
a great material, but single-use plastic is a huge area of growth for the
industry, and I'm afraid that we need to see business get worse for these
producers, not better if we're going to begin to tackle this problem. If
you're trying to support industry growth and keep plastic out of the
environment, you've got a contradiction in terms with the existing
mechanisms we have for stopping pollution. A full scale paradigm shift in
how the business of plastic works is what we need. And maybe that means not
making some of it. Maybe that means getting resin makers to divest in
producing virgin material and invest in recycling that which they've already
made. That's an important distinction- the guys that make the stuff by and
large don't recover or reprocess it.
Seems to me like shifting focus from production to recovery and recycling a
bit might make a big difference.
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