Maui’s Ark founder Stephen Harris began a new role in September 2018 as Special Representative of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance. The role leads efforts across the 53-member Commonwealth to tackle the causes and consequences of plastic pollution in the ocean, with a particular focus on the Pacific and small island developing states. As of October 2019 31 Commonwealth countries had joined CCOA, including Pacific Island countries Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Australia and New Zealand. Hear about his mission in this 30 January 2019 interview with Don Wiseman, of Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific programme:
One of the remotest islands on Earth also has beaches with among the highest concentrations of plastic flotsam of any stretch of coastline. This three-part feature describes what happened when a special expedition by the British Government and the Pew-Bertarelli Trusts tried to clean it up:
And how the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported it:
A Dutch innovator claims to have overcome earlier setbacks in scooping up plastic flotsam with floating booms. Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup expedition last year failed when the boom system broke up in the Pacific when he attempted to mop up part of the Northwest Pacific Garbage Patch (see map opposite), but now he believes his team has mastered the technique:
Hotel California - no pink shampoo on ice, no warm smell of conditioner rising up through the air…..
Hotels in California - the most populous state in the US - will have to stop giving guests small plastic shampoo bottles under a new law set to take effect starting in 2023, Stuff news reports.
Governor Gavin Newsom has announced he had signed a law banning hotels from giving guests plastic bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner or soap. It takes effect in 2023 for hotels with more than 50 rooms and 2024 for hotels with less than 50 rooms.
Violators could be fined US$500 for a first offence and US$2000 (NZ$3177) for subsequent violations.
The law follows similar actions by some of the world's largest hotel chains. Marriott International has said it plans to stop using small plastic bottles in its hotel rooms by December 2020. IHG, which owns Holiday Inn, Kimpton and other brands, said it will eliminate about 200 million small bottles by 2021.
Plastics pollution is fast growing to rival threats from climate change to the Pacific, one of the region’s top diplomats has warned. Kosi Latu, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), told the Moananui - Te Paepae o Tangaroa (Open Ocean) Symposium in Gisborne, New Zealand, on 7 October that these and other environmental threats to the Pacific demanded a transformation in thinking. Despite the many forums and institutions already grappling with these challenges, these lacked coherence and none was equipped to reverse the damaging trends, he said. “We’re embedded in a philosophy of extraction; we need a paradigm shift….A transformative approach would be to consider the needs of the ocean itself and the creatures that live in it.”
A container return scheme could see a price put on empty bottles in New Zealand. The Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage, announced on 25 September that officials will investigate the feasibility and design of a CRS, to start dealing with the estimated 2 billion single-use drink containers discarded in New Zealand every year. Maui’s Ark supports the move, as does Greenpeace. See Sage’s release here:
Tyres, electronic waste, bottles and plastic packaging are among a range of potential polluters on the New Zealand Government’s new hit list. These items may face a recycling tax under measures put out for public consultation by 4 October. See news story and consultation document below.
Fancy a dip in an ocean tip? Frenchman Ben Lecomte has completed a 300 nautical mile (556km) swim through the Northwest Pacific plastic gyre, to highlight the density of rubbish afflicting the world’s biggest ocean. He arrived in San Francisco from Hawaii on 1 September. A New Zealand-founded outdoor clothing company, Icebreaker, sponsored his campaign. See full stories:
New Zealand “needs a radical break-up with plastic” if mounting environmental harm is to be diverted, says an expert adviser to a major report just published by the Royal Society.
Hear the interview with Associate Professor Sally Gaw here:https://www.rnz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018705313
And read the full report here: http://royalsociety.org.nz/plastics
The NZ Army has sent reinforcements for ‘Operation Fox’ - a battle by environmental authorities and volunteers to clean up tonnes of waste from a regional rubbish dump and washed down Westland’s Fox River during recent flooding. Here Radio NZ item: https://www.rnz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018705313
Bags gagged! Throwaway plastic bags became outlaws in New Zealand on 1 July.
For the official word on the ban, and other related developments, see the Facebook page of the Ministry for the Environment here:
And Kenya is seeing a big improvement, two years after introducing its ban on single-use plastic bags. See BBC story here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-49421885
South East Asian countries have signed a pledge to tackle marine plastic pollution. Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - which includes four of the world's top polluters - adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region on 22 June. See full story:
In one of the biggest steps to take responsibility for the rubbish we produce, almost all countries have agreed to extend the ban on shipping hazardous waste so that plastics can no longer be sent from rich countries to dumping grounds in the developing world. The extension to the Basel Convention, signed in Geneva in early May by 187 countries but not the US, prohibits them from exporting plastic waste to another country without its consent. See full story in The Guardian:
The ocean is warming at an ever-faster rate, a leading global weather watchdog says. In its annual State of the Global Climate report, published late March, the World Meteorological Organisation says the four years 2015-18 were the warmest on record, and oceans are a key indicator, absorbing nine-tenths of all heat trapped by greenhouse gases. The Southern Ocean has warmed the fastest, and an area of the Tasman Sea west of New Zealand’s South Island recorded 5 degrees Celsius above average - a world record. These trends have grave implications for life on Earth. See full report:
Meanwhile, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) warns that overall CO2 emissions from the plastic life cycle are expected to increase by 50% by 2030, while the CO2 increase from plastic incineration is set to triple by then, due to wrong waste management choices. See full report:
Depleted oceans could threaten the future of our planet, the President of the Seychelles has warned in a speech delivered underwater. See full story from the BBC:
A whale beached in the Philippines was found to have eaten around 40kg of plastic, including 16 rice sacks, four banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags. See full story:
Nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders are concerned about plastic waste, a major study shows. The Colmar Brunton annual ‘Better Futures’ study revealed that 72% of respondents rated plastic waste as a significant concern, more than any other issue. The survey, which polled 1000 people online in early December, showed 9% more people concerned about plastic waste than a year earlier. The result was ahead of the cost of living (68%), protection of children and suicide rates (both 67%) and other environmental issues, notably polluted lakes, rivers and seas (64%) and climate change (55%). See full results here:
Disposable plastic bags will be banned in New Zealand from next July. Following public consultation the New Zealand Government has decided to ban single-use plastic bags from July this year. See summary of submissions:
We’re eating plastic, says a study reported in the New York Times. The research, led by a medical university in Vienna, found an alarming prevalence and range of microplastics in samples taken from human gut contents. See report:
The NZ Parliament’s Environment Committee has heard from Maui’s Ark founder, Stephen Harris, about the scale and complexity of marine plastic debris. The Committee is holding an inquiry into coastal plastic pollution in New Zealand - but Harris says the problem is a global one:
Beware of greenwash! New Zealand's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has investigated the sometimes-loose use of terms claiming packaging is 'biodegradable' or 'compostable'. Here's the Commissioner's guide to sort the green stuff from the brown stuff:
Somalia's Islamist movement, al-Shabab, has decreed a ban on single-use plastic bags. Al-Shabab - which means 'The Youth' in Arabic - says they are dangerous to human and animal health. The penalties for non-compliance have not been spelled out.
Britain is contributing nearly $17 million (9 million pounds) to spearhead a Commonwealth drive to protect marine environments in small island states. The initiative recognises the connection between climate change and marine vulnerability:
A bug that eats plastic could offer a solution to attacking much of the world's plastic waste build-up, scientists say. The enzyme is able to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - a form of plastic used in millions of tonnes of plastic bottles:https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/103194694/scientists-accidentally-create-plasticeating-enzyme-that-could-help-fight-pollution
Cambodia's coastal town of Sihanouk is suffocating under drifts of plastic waste, the UK Guardian newspaper reports. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/mountains-and-mountains-of-plastic-life-on-cambodias-polluted-coast
New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, has pledged his country's support to helping Pacific nations address the problems of plastic waste. New Zealand's government recently joined the UN-led CleanSeas campaign which aims to rid the seas of plastic waste.
New Zealand's most successful global politician and its most famous actor have backed calls to ban single-use plastic bags. Helen Clark - a former New Zealand Prime Minister and until last year head of the United Nations development programme - plus actor Sam Neill have both recently added their voices to calls to ban the bag, as has primate researcher Jane Goodall: https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/101773516/helen-clark-joins-sam-neill-and-jane-goodall-in-campaign-urging-nationwide-ban-on-plastic-bags
A New Zealand company has developed the world's first solution for converting all grades of plastic waste into valuable building materials. See more on this TV3 News item: