The Center for Biological Diversity, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Surfrider Foundation have filed a lawsuit compelling the Trump administration to declare 17 bodies of water in the Hawaiian Island chain “impaired” under the Clean Water Act due to massive amounts of plastic pollution in those waters. The administration has thus far failed to examine the studies, according to a press release put out by the Center.
“The beaches where our keiki (children) gathered shells are now covered in plastic. Waters where our families fish are filled with toxic debris. Marine life in our coral reefs is choking on microplastics,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center’s Hawaii director. “It’s a crisis we have to address before it’s too late.”
According to the Center, the Clean Water Act requires that the Environmental Protection Agency designate as impaired all bodies of water in the country that do not meet state water quality standards. Once a body of water is declared as impaired, the government must take action to reduce the pollution. Surveys have found that much of the plastic found in Hawaiian waters originate in the state.
“As one of the leaders in plastic pollution cleanup and education in Hawaii, we’ve witnessed the increasing threats of Hawaii’s plastic pollution epidemic,” said Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. “Every year, a denser wave of plastic makes its way into our coastal waters. This insidious pollution shows up as giant heaps of nets that strangle our endangered marine life and as the most microscopic fragments that are mistaken for food by fish and animals of all sizes. Our islands need action on one of the most devastating forms of water pollution our planet has seen.”
The plastic pollution found in the waters off the Hawaiian island chain ranges from plastic water bottles and food containers to fishing nets and plastic goods. These materials make their way into the human food chain and are also killing marine life such as sea birds and turtles.
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago and has one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet. It is also second to China as the world’s second most ocean polluter. The country has realized that what it is contributing to the world in terms of plastic pollution cannot continue, and has formulated an action plan to reduce, and eventually eliminate plastic pollution. It has some serious goals—cut marine plastic waste by 70 percent in five years, and become plastic pollution free by 2040. That is just a single generation. According to the World Bank, Indonesia generates 24,500 tons of plastic waste every day. Of that, some estimate 20 percent of that plastic pollution ends up in the country’s rivers and oceans.
“Our beautiful nation is grappling with a serious plastic pollution challenge. We are home to the world’s largest archipelago – more than 17,000 islands, 81,000 kilometres of coastlines and a rich abundance of biodiverse marine ecosystems. Our pristine natural environment is a gift that we have treasured for thousands of years, and one that we must pass down to future generations,” Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia said in the 2020 World Economic Forum annual meeting last week.
“At the same time, the amount of plastic waste generated in Indonesia each year is growing at unsustainable levels. In our cities, our waterways and our coastlines, the accumulation of toxic plastic waste is harming our food systems and the health of our people. Our booming fishing industry, the second-largest in the world, is under threat from rising levels of marine plastic debris. By 2025, the amount of plastic waste leaking into our oceans could increase to 800,000 tonnes – if no action is taken.
“I’m proud to announce that Indonesia will be choosing not what is easy, but what is right. Rather than staying with a ‘business as usual’ approach, we will be embracing a sweeping, full-system-change approach to combatting plastic waste and pollution, one that we hope will spark greater collaboration and commitment from others on the global stage.”
“The vision goes even further: by 2040, we aim to achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia – one that embodies the principle of the circular economy, in which plastics will no longer end up in our oceans, waterways and landfills, but will go on to have a new life.”
Five points of action
To successfully reach the 70% reduction target by 2025, we are committed to leading five system-change interventions that will change the way plastics are produced, used, and disposed of.
1) Reduce or substitute plastic usage to prevent the consumption of 1.1 million tonnes of plastic per year. We will work with industry leaders in Indonesia to transform their supply chains by rooting out plastic materials that can be avoided. Examples include replacing single-use packaging with reusable packaging; embracing new delivery models, such as refill shops; and empowering consumers to move away from single-use plastic consumption.
2) Redesign plastic products and packaging with reuse or recycling in mind. Recognizing that some forms of plastics cannot be substituted with alternative materials, we need to make sure that they do not become mismanaged waste. We will work with manufacturers and innovators to champion an industry-wide shift towards circular plastics – with the ultimate goal of making all plastic waste a valuable commodity for reuse or recycling.
3) Double plastic waste collection to 80% by 2025. Currently, around 39% of the total plastic waste in Indonesia is collected; in rural and remote areas, this figure is as low as 16%.[ii] We need to aggressively invest in our waste-collection infrastructure, both in the formal sector (government employees) and the robust informal sector (waste pickers, many of them women, who play a significant role in our national waste management efforts).
4) Double our current recycling capacity to process an additional 975,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iii] In 2017, only 10% of plastics generated in Indonesia were recycled. We urgently need to close this capacity gap by directing investment into expanding existing infrastructure facilities and building new infrastructure to match the explosive growth in plastic production across the ASEAN region.
5) Build or expand safe waste disposal facilities to manage an additional 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iv] This is our last chance to put a safeguarding measure at the end of the plastic lifecycle to prevent plastic waste from becoming plastic pollution. These facilities will allow us to safely dispose of non-recyclable plastic materials, as well as plastic waste that is generated in remote locations without recycling facilities.
To achieve these goals, Indonesia will work with consumers and manufacturers to achieve a circular plastic solution, with the goal of making all plastics a valuable commodity for reuse and recycling. Manufacturers who claim that consumers prefer plastics should take note. With more than 100 million Indonesians, these manufacturers better start innovating or risk losing out on a massive market to sell their products.
Copepods, those tiny crustaceans that make up much of the building blocks of marine life, have been found to be ingesting tiny beads of plastic trash, also known as microplastics. These tiny animals usually eat algae, and are fed upon by larger organisms which in turn are eaten by larger organisms up the food chain, but Emily Shore, a student researcher at the University of Vermont has shown that the fecal material, otherwise known as poop, of Acartia tonsa copepods in her study, has shortened considerably, as these organisms, often just one millimeter in length, consume more micro plastics and less algae.
“I have some data from a previous experiment where the adults were laying shorter fecal lengths, which showed that they were consuming less algae—and more microplastics,” Shore told UVM Today. “There was less biomatter to make the fecal lengths longer.”
Acartia tonsa is an important food source for Atlantic fish, and they do well in laboratory situations, so Shore and her professor,Melissa Pespeni, can reproduce them in the lab and study how microplastics affects these crustaceans for the duration of their lives.
It is not surprising that these little critters are eating microplastics, because the world’s oceans are inundated with these man-made materials. Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego released a study last year that says microscopic plastics off the California coast has doubled every 15 years since the 1940s, and the increase in these marine plastics matches the rise in plastic production worldwide.
And a study of shellfish off the coast of the United Kingdom found that 100 percent of mussels taken from UK waters as well as supermarket-purchased mussels contained microplastics and other debris in their systems.
Shore, who is pursuing an accelerated master’s degree in biology, is hoping that more attention is placed on the perils of marine plastics in the world’s oceans.
“There’s just not enough attention on plastic pollution in the ocean. It’s scary because you can’t see all these critters, except with a microscope,” Shore said, “but they’re out there, eating plastic. Which means we are too.”
None of these executives are smiling. They have launched the fund in an effort to clean up the oceans and prevent plastics from entering the evironment in the first place. Left to right: Rob Kaplan (Founder & CEO, Circulate Capital), Bambang Candra (Asia-Pacific Commercial Vice President, Dow Packaging and Speciality Plastics), Matt Echols (Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Asia Pacific), and Matt Kovac (Executive Director, Food Industry Asia)
A venture capital fund management company in Singapore has launched a $US100 million plastic pollution fund in an effort to curtail the flow of plastics into the oceans of Asia. The partners of the fund, the Circulate Capital Ocean Fund (CCOF), include some of the largest conglomerates whose product packaging is often seen in coastal cleanups, including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company.
The fund will finance debt and equity financing for regional waste management efforts, and recycling and circular economy startups that are fighting what the fund calls a plastic crisis.
“The good news is that we are able to reduce nearly 50% of the world’s plastic leakage by investing in the waste and recycling sector in Asia, and even more if we invest in innovative materials and technologies,” Rob Kaplan, CEO of Circulate Capital said in a statement released to the media. “This is why we are here in Singapore—a strategic hub of Southeast Asia—to prove that investing in this sector is scalable for the region and can generate competitive returns while moving closer to solving the ocean plastic crisis.”
About 60 percent of marine plastics originate from Southeast Asia, with China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam the top five ocean polluting countries in the world. A large portion of these pollutants can most likely be traced to the conglomerates that are contributing to the fund. They have realized that without efforts from industry, the marine plastic pollution problem cannot be corrected.
“Financing alone cannot solve the ocean plastic crisis,” the fund wrote in its press release. “It requires a full suite of solutions from policy and corporate commitments to financial incentives and changes in CONSUMER BEHAVIOR.”
“For the beverage sector, the more recycled content used in any type of packaging such as 100% recyclable plastics, the lower the carbon footprint. That’s why at Coca-Cola we have invested in Circulate Capital and have committed to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can we produce by 2030. Beverage packaging does not need to become waste. By investing in the waste collection and recycling sector in this critical region, it can become a valuable material used again and again—a step closer towards a circular economy,” said Matt Echols, Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability Coca-Cola Asia Pacific.
Circulate Capital was created in collaboration with Closed Loop Partners and Ocean Conservancy, and our founding investors include PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, the fund wrote.
Many people want to blame brands for the plastics that end up into the ocean, as if a company such as Coca Cola tells you to throw the bottle in the ocean. They don’t. But those bottles still end up in the ocean.
We as consumers have to find ways to minimize the plastic, paper, tin, e-waste etc. that we use everyday from leaking into the ocean. The solution can be as simple as buying less. Reduce and then refuse.
If you can do without soda, that’s one less consumer and one less plastic bottle that ends up in the ocean.
If you can do without SPAM, that’s one less tin can that ends up in the ocean.
See where you can cut down. Imagine if 8 billion people cut down on soda intake, do the math.
Reduce your use of online shopping. For example, according to Fast Company, about 165 million packages are shipped every year in the United States. That equals about 1 billion trees. That is a lot of cardboard that gets, for the most part thrown away, with much of it ending in the oceans.
In the Philippines, online shopping portal Lazada broke records for Singles day last November 11. It reported that a single shopper spent P1.2 million, and more than one million products were sold during the first hour of the online shopping sale. Imagine what the total was for the entire day. Filipinos spent 205 million minutes shopping on the website November 11. A sample of the breakdown, according to Interaksyon, is telling: More than 200,000 toys and games were sold, 13 million diapers, 240,000 pairs of sneakers and 10,000 pieces of luggage. That is not to mention 348 pre-ordered cars.
Where does all that packaging go? It has to go somewhere. Lazada and the maker of Pampers are not entirely responsible for the waste that is generated, the consumer is. The consumer is responsible for what is purchased. Companies though are beginning to take notice in how their products are packaged. Coca Cola announced that Coca Cola Sweden is the first to adopt 100 percent recycled plastic for its products. The company says the switch will prevent the use of 3,500 tons of virgin plastic each year and 25% fewer CO2 emissions.
Reusable glass water bottles at Hyatt Regency Amsterdam
In an effort to reduce its global use of plastics, Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced that it is launching three global initiatives to reduce its use of single-use plastics. As part of its efforts, the company will phase out its use of single use bottles of shower gel, shampoo, conditioners and lotions, and replace them with what the company calls large format bathroom amenities.
It will increase the number of water stations (once known as water fountains) in key public spaces on its hotel grounds worldwide so guests can refill their own reusable water bottles; and it will serve water in carafes or other reusable containers for meetings and events, with bottled water available upon request.
“At Hyatt, our purpose – we care for people so they can be their best – guides all business decisions, including our global sustainability framework, which focuses on using resources responsibly and helping address today’s most pressing environmental issues,” Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO, Hyatt said in a statement released to the media. “Plastic pollution is a global issue, and we hope our efforts will motivate guests, customers and, indeed, ourselves to think more critically about our use of plastic.”
The company rethinking its use of plastic is not new. It has already removed plastic straws and drink picks from its hotels, and has made alternatives available. Hyatt properties around the world have already done away with many single use plastics, and have solutions in place, including:
• In-house water bottling plants that reuse glass bottles and replace single-use bottles. Hotels with this solution currently include Alila Villas Koh Russey, Alila Manggis, Alila Ubud, Alila Villas Uluwatu, Alila Bangsar, Alila Jabal Akhdar, Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, Hyatt Regency Delhi, Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.
• Reusable bottles distributed to all guests at check-in at resorts such as Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin.
• Filtered water spouts installed in all guest rooms at Park Hyatt Istanbul - Macka Palas to provide fresh drinking water.