Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Paraguay have  joined the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, bringing the number of countries now involved in the world’s largest alliance for combating marine plastic pollution to 60.

The three nations signed up during the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi where more than 4, 700 delegates from 170 countries have been meeting to hammer out new guidelines to enable humanity prosper without degrading the planet’s already depleted resources.

Launched in 2017, the Clean Seas campaign works with governments, businesses and citizens to eliminate the needless use of disposable plastics and protect our oceans and rivers from a toxic tide of pollution that is endangering livelihoods and killing wildlife. The alliance now covers more than 60 per cent of the world’s coastlines.

Antigua and Barbuda banned single-use plastic bags in 2016, becoming the first country in the region to do so.

The island nation is now working to eliminate polystyrene products, which it hopes to achieve over the coming year. It is also looking to expand its recycling capacity and extend a scheme for collecting and recycling plastic bottles.

Minister for Health, Wellness and the Environment in Antigua and Barbuda Molwyn Joseph said that since introducing the region’s first ban on single-use plastic bags in 2016, Antigua and Barbuda has been a pioneer in the fight against marine plastic pollution.

“We are delighted to join the Clean Seas campaign and share our drive and experience with other nations so that together we can take decisive action to turn this toxic tide that threatens livelihoods, wildlife and the survival of our oceans,” said Joseph.

He added that they have been witnessing a deadly creep of environmental degradation and resolved that they would not bequeath this to the generations of the future.

“Leaders must now take action. We hope that by joining the Clean Seas campaign, we can galvanize global support for this urgent cause,” Joseph added.

Landlocked Paraguay committed to clean its polluted rivers, starting in the capital Asunción. As a first step in February, more than 1, 000 volunteers cleared 43 tonnes of waste from the Mburicaó River.

Paraguay’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Ariel Oviedo said the Ministry of Environment hopes to restore the river to its former glory while also raising awareness among local people of the need to dispose of their waste responsibly.

“Pollution of our planet’s rivers and waterways is a global issue and all countries need to play their part, including landlocked nations,” he said

Paraguay, along with three other South American countries, is home to the Guaraní Aquifer, one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs, and Oviedo said they were excited to join the global movement to fight against marine plastic pollution.

“We hope to inspire our citizens and others to fully commit to positive action to ensure the survival of our rivers and oceans,” he added.

Among Trinidad and Tobago’s top priorities is reinforcing its waste management system while also educating the population about the need to separate household waste.

Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis said they were delighted to join the powerful global movement to tackle marine plastic pollution.

“As a twin-island nation with limited space, we are keen to develop sustainable waste management solutions and expand our recycling capacity. We have seen the devastating effect of plastic pollution on our beaches and we want to be part of the global solution,” she said

Every year, around 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, poisoning fish, birds and other sea creatures. That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck of litter being dumped into the sea every minute.

Plastic waste, in the form of micro plastics, has also entered the human food chain, and the consequences were not yet fully understood.

According to experts, awareness of the need to act decisively against plastic pollution has been growing in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that is particularly vulnerable to marine litter and other environmental threats caused by our changing climate, such as increasingly powerful storms.

 

By Wangari Ndirangu