Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced a new model for combating plastic pollution at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park on Sept. 28.
Browne announced in front of tens of thousands of Global Citizens that the country will become the first island nation to adopt environmental nonprofit Parley for the Oceans' AIR system, which stands for avoid, intercept, and redesign.
The approach tackles plastic waste at its source, cleans up existing plastic pollution, and spurs new plastic alternative designs.
The prime minister said that his country faces a growing plastic pollution problem. Globally, up to 12 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, causing widespread harm to marine ecosystems.
“Antigua and Barbuda has experienced firsthand the devastating impact of plastic pollution on our coastal communities and marine life,” he said onstage. “Our coolest island paradise is dedicated to being a blueprint for change by revolutionizing our infrastructure, education, and the economy.”
In many ways, the AIR model is a modern take on the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” mantra that sustainability advocates have used for decades.
With the help of experts, Antigua and Barbuda will embark on efforts to avoid plastic use in the first place. This will likely involve legislative restrictions on plastic production, collaborations with the business community to phase out plastics, and campaigns to encourage people to avoid unnecessary single-use plastics.
The island nation will also implement programs to intercept plastic waste that’s on its way to marine environments. Parley will set up collection devices in areas that are most likely to deposit plastic waste into the ocean, such as by rivers and landfills.
Browne said that the island — using a “recycling station that actually works” — expects to intercept approximately 27,000 tons of plastic by 2030, and "thereby helping eliminate plastic pollutants from our shores."
Teams will also scour the waters surrounding Antigua and Barbuda to recover nets that have been dumped in the water. These improperly discarded fishing nets are called “ghost nets” because they pose such a grave threat to marine animals who often get tangled in and suffocated by them.
The last phase of the AIR system involves “redesigning” plastic, or finding alternatives to this ubiquitous material. Parley will fund researchers that are working on sustainable alternatives.
The organization already has a promising track record of developing cutting-edge materials. Over the past few years, Parley has developed a way of turning ocean plastic waste into fashionable items.
Browne was joined on stage by Cyrill Gutsch, CEO of Parley, who said that the AIR model should be adopted by countries both throughout the Caribbean, and around the world.
Browne reiterated his call to the global community: “Today, we are calling on other island nations to step up and become Parley Future Island Nations and commit to using innovative solutions to avoid, intercept, and redesign plastic in their nations.”