Plastic Bag Bans Are Not Enough

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Plastic

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By Ashley Verhines

Plastic bag bans are not enough to save the oceans from a growing tide of plastic pollution. Local efforts are crucial, but a concerted global approach is necessary, say the authors of 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.

The report, “Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter: A Global Action Agenda,” lays out the sources and impacts of marine litter–all human-generated, artificial, often petroleum-based, solid materials that are discarded or lost in the ocean and remain there–and it recommends domestic and global policy recommendations to combat the scourge.

Ultimately, the authors conclude, a global treaty likely will be required to stop the estimated 20 million tons of plastic bags, food packaging, balloons, and other plastic debris that enter the oceans annually. With a 5 percent increase in non-biodegradable plastic production each year, the world’s oceans are filling at a rate that is wreaking devastating effects on marine wildlife, coastal economies, fisheries, and human health. Degraded coral reefs, damaged vessels, lost tourism, diminished fishery revenues and other symptoms of plastic-littered marine ecosystems equate to billions of dollars of losses worldwide each year.

Current policies fail to fully address the problem as many of the main sources of the litter fall outside the jurisdiction of any single nation and existing international agreements lack enforceable standards.

“Plastic marine litter is a growing global environmental threat imposing major economic costs on industry and government. 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 the global devastating impacts to marine life, the economy and public health,” said report coauthor Mark Gold, associate director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Although there is no one panacea, we have identified the top ten plastic pollution prevention actions that can be implemented now to begin drastically reducing plastic marine litter.”

“Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter” reviews the current studies, policies and international agreements surrounding plastic marine litter, and proposes a “Top 10” list of recommended actions–actions the authors recommend implementing by 2025–to dramatically reduce current rates of plastic marine disposal.

Authors of the report call on the global community to develop a new international treaty and amend existing international and regional laws to include more aggressive monitoring and enforcement actions. This would include prompt banning of the most damaging and common types of plastic marine litter. The report also recommends the implementation of an “ocean friendly” certification program for all plastic products, better infrastructure for waste management, development and expansion of marine litter education and awareness, and establishment of funding sources for comprehensive clean-up efforts.

“Because global mismanagement of plastic is fueling the growing marine litter problem, policy responses are needed at all levels, from the international community of nations down to national and local communities,” said report coauthor Cara Horowitz, executive director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law School. “We can act now to rapidly scale up effective policies and programs to address plastic marine litter. And hopefully, international collaboration to reduce plastic litter will lay a foundation for broader cooperation on other significant issues affecting the health of our oceans.”

“Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter: A Global Action Agenda” is the most recent Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Brief, made possible through funding from the charitable Pritzker Group.


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World Bank releases new report on climate change, global warming

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Global Warming

LUCKNOW: World Bank has released a new report — On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives. The report that talks about ways to mitigate the effects of climate change says fast action to cut common pollutants like soot (also known as black carbon) and methane will not only slow global warming, but save millions of lives.

Reductions of these so-called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) would slow rapid melting in mountain regions with glaciers, like the Himalayas and the Arctic. More than one million premature deaths could be avoided annually in the Himalayan region from reducing emissions of black carbon and methane. It would also bring multiple health, crop and ecosystem benefits, and decrease risks to development from flooding and water shortages says a new scientific study.

According to the study measures to reduce these emissions in the Himalayan region could increase crop yields for staples such as rice and wheat by over 15 million tons annually.

The health of people around the world will improve greatly if we reduce emissions of black carbon and methane. Limiting these emissions also will be an important contributor to the fight against climate change,”said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.

‘On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives’ is about how climate change is affecting the cryosphere those snow-capped mountain ranges, brilliant glaciers and vast permafrost regions on which all of us depend.

It warns that current warming in the cryosphere could have dire human consequences from resulting sea level rise, increased water stress and more extreme weather. For example, the release of large CO2 and methane stores as a result of melting permafrost could contribute up to 30% more carbon to the atmosphere by the end of the century.

The Himalayan mountain ranges extending 2,400 km through six nations (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal) make up the largest cryosphere region. Rapid climate induced changes in the region will directly affect the water resources of more than 1.5 billion lives, as well as services such as electricity, a nd the food supplies of 3 billion people.

Decrease in glacial and snow cover has been recorded across the Himalayan region with an increase of 1.5 degree C in the annual mean surface temperature over pre-industrial average temperatures.

The report also lays out immediate measures we can take to slow the ice melt including reducing the black carbon emissions from diesel-fueled vehicles and solid fuel cooking fires that lowers the reflectivity of snow and ice, leading to greater melting.

Such actions would also provide important health, agriculture and other development benefits. According to the report, if more clean cook-stoves stoves that use less or cleaner fuel would be used it could save one million lives. While, a 50% drop in open field and forest burning could result in 190,000 fewer deaths every year, many of them in Europe and Central Asia.

Reductions in emissions from diesel transport and equipment, meanwhile, could result in more than 16 million tons of additional yield in crops such as rice, soy and wheat, especially in Southeast Asia; and also avert 340,000 premature deaths.

UCLA Report: Top 10 Solutions to Global Ocean Plastic Pollution

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Plastic

Leila Monroe, Staff Attorney, Oceans Program, San Francisco

A new report released recently identifies the best solutions to tackle the urgent problem of an estimated 20 million tons of plastic litter entering the ocean each year. Plastic pollution is a daunting crisis for the marine environment, one that demands action.

With input from NRDC and other top ocean and waste experts, authors from UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability have jointly released a comprehensive Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Brief: “Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter: A Global Action Agenda”. 

This report documents the devastating effects of plastic marine litter, detailing how plastic forms a large portion of our waste stream and typically does not biodegrade in the marine environment. Plastic marine litter has a wide range of adverse environmental and economic impacts, from wildlife deaths and degraded coral reefs to billions of dollars in cleanup costs (see NRDC’s report on the cost to California communities HERE), damage to vessels, and lost tourism and fisheries revenues. The brief calls on the global community to develop a new international treaty while also urging immediate action to implement regional and local solutions.

Report co-author Cara Horowitz, Executive Director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, expressed in the report’s release:

“Because global mismanagement of plastic is fueling the growing marine litter problem, policy responses are needed at all levels, from the international community of nations down to national and local communities. We can act now to rapidly scale up effective policies and programs to address plastic marine litter. And hopefully, international collaboration to reduce plastic litter will lay a foundation for broader cooperation on other significant issues affecting the health of our oceans.”

Among the Top-10 list of recommended solutions are priority actions that are already the focus for NRDC’s work to combat marine plastic pollution:

  • Extended producer-responsibility programs for plastic packaging;
  • Advancing domestic and local regulatory actions, such as bans of the most common and damaging types of plastic litter; and
  • Expanding the use of “zero-trash” Total Maximum Daily Loads or similar requirements in urban coastal watersheds. 

Other creative solutions in line with NRDC’s work are the creation of an “ocean friendly” certification program for plastic products and the introduction of a new international treaty with strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

For more information on NRDC’s work to stop plastic pollution, follow us on Twitter @EndPlasticTrash and like us on facebook.com/StopPlasticPollution. And you can also get involved in our efforts to promoting solutions to keep our waterways, beaches and oceans plastic free by joining at StopPlasticTrash.org.

Trash in Ballona Creek LA, Stiv Wilson.jpg

Trash in Ballona Creek, California, by Stiv Wilson, 5 Gyres Institute.