Billions of people worldwide — especially those living in poverty — rely on healthy oceans for food and jobs. However, the health of our oceans is in jeopardy from a multitude of threats including plastic pollution.

At least 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year — that’s the equivalent of one New York City garbage truck full of plastic dumping its load into the ocean every minute. More than 80% of this plastic waste originates on land. Experts say that if we want to keep our oceans from being poisoned by plastic, we’ll need to find new ways to keep plastic waste out of our oceans and off our beaches, while at the same time radically reducing the supply of plastics by creating a worldwide “circular economy.”

That is why Global Citizen has been calling on governments, businesses, and Global Citizens to take action to save the oceans and protect the most vulnerable people who depend on them. Since January 2018, more than 300,000 actions have been taken on the campaign to reduce plastic waste, and more recently, to ask mayors in the Philippines to commit to implementing zero waste programs in their cities.

Last month at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, Global Citizen co-hosted a session called “From Source to Sea,” in which experts and government leaders examined how marine pollution is harming the oceans and discussed possible solutions.

The session convened world leaders including Norway’s Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, and Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Surasak Karnjanarat.

Joining them were the World Bank’s CEO Kristalina Georgieva and vice president for sustainable development Laura Tuck, as well as UN special envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson and PepsiCo’s vice president for global sustainability Roberta Barbieri.

Global Citizen’s environment and oceans lead Sophie Hollingsworth represented civil society and introduced small businesses in the space, namely Karün’s founder Thomas Kimber and The Plastic Bank’s founder and CEO David Katz.

The star of the show was the luminary on all things to do with the planet, Sir David Attenborough.

He focused on the need for concerted global action on reducing the impact of plastic waste on our oceans, and creating better livelihoods for people who are most affected.

Read More: Sir David Attenborough Calls for Global Laws to Protect the Oceans

As an example of what this can look like, we invited a key policymaker to the stage. The director general of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Carin Jämtin, announced that Sweden was one of the largest contributors to PROBLUE, a multi-donor trust fund launched last year.

“We are one of the biggest donors to the PROBLUE. I’m proud of that, but when looking at this [petition] and listening to all the stories, I’m wondering, why is everyone not a donor? That would be my pledge, to try to encourage other donors to join. We’ll keep it up," Jämtin said.

PROBLUE works to provide funding to tackle the management of fisheries and aquaculture; the threats posed to ocean health by marine pollution, including litter and plastics; the sustainable development of key ocean dependant  sectors such as tourism, maritime transport and offshore renewable energy; and building the capacity of governments to manage their marine and coastal resources in an integrated fashion to deliver more and long-lasting benefits to countries and communities.

Last year on Global Citizen’s stage in Central Park, Minister Astrup of Norway made the first commitment to the fund, of USD $15 million. Since, a number of other countries have signed onto support the fund.

In a call for more countries to prioritize the issue, Global Citizen handed over a petition of global citizens’ signatures -- including Pharrell Williams’s and Darren Criss’s — calling on world leaders to prevent ocean plastic pollution. This petition was handed over to Sweden’s Carin Jämtin during the Spring Meetings.

“The crux of our pledge and petition is that governments, individuals and companies all have a part to play in preventing ocean plastic pollution. Change is possible,” said Madge Thomas, senior director of global policy and advocacy at Global Citizen.

The event also featured Antolin Oreta, the mayor of Malabon City, in the Philippines, who announced his support for a zero waste city. Our journey with the Philippines story started earlier this year, when Global Citizen traveled to metropolitan Manila to meet with activists, policymakers, and civil society who for many years have vehemently been calling for change.

Accompanied by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Darren Criss (you may know him from Glee or the Assassination of Gianni Versace), we went on a trip that focused on following the journey of plastic pollution from source to sea, learning about the challenges of waste collection in informal settlements that lack integrated waste management, fishermen communities whose nets collect more plastic pollution than fish, and the local initiatives being implemented to prevent ocean bound plastic pollution in rivers leading into Manila Bay and the ocean.

We met with activists who have been working towards implementing zero-waste programs for years, including the Mother Earth Foundation, the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability, the Eco-Waste Coalition, Save our Philippines Seas, Clean Seas Pilipinas, The Climate Reality Project, and World Vision.

The countries with the worst waste management programs are often located in extremely poor parts of the world — particularly in Asia. In the regulatory and local government context, mayors, and municipalities have a role to play in community mobilization, enforcement of national laws, and infrastructure and waste management.

In this vein, we welcomed the announcement from the mayor of Malabon City that we later screened at the World Bank Spring Meetings event. Mayor Oreta spoke about pursuing a zero-waste Malabon City, and called for support from Global Citizens to help place this goal front and center. We are pleased to congratulate Mayor Len Oreta on his recent re-election and encourage him to keep up the good work on his announcement to make Malabon City zero-waste.  

Global Citizen is now calling on mayors across the Philippines to prioritize moving towards zero-waste Philippines and the reduction of plastic pollution through better waste solutions. Zero waste doesn’t mean not producing no waste -- instead, it means that waste is recycled or reused, rather than sent to landfills or burning facilities, thus preventing ocean bound plastic pollution.

But there is more work to be done, because in Norway’s Minister Ulstein’s words, “I don’t think any one of us has done enough.”

Which is why Global Citizen is not limiting our campaign efforts to the Philippines, and continues to call on global individuals, businesses, and governments to all do their unique part to help prevent and reduce marine plastic pollution. Use your voice to take action here.


Defend the Planet

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