October 21, 2021, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report entitled from pollution to solutions: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution (from pollution to solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution) reveals the impact of marine garbage and plastic pollution on the environment and its impact on ecosystem, wildlife and human health. The report points out that plastic products account for the largest, most harmful and most lasting part of marine garbage, at least accounting for the total amount of marine garbage All ecosystems from the source to the ocean are facing increasingly serious threats. The report aims to inform evidence-based action at all levels and emphasizes the importance of global emergency action and its political will in responding to this growing crisis. The International Department of the green society hereby compiles and shares its main research findings as follows for the reference of interested friends.
1. The amount of marine garbage and plastic pollution is growing rapidly. Without effective action, the amount of plastic waste discharged into aquatic ecosystems is expected to nearly triple by 2040.
The rapid increase in the scale and quantity of marine garbage and plastic pollution is putting the health of all oceans in the world at risk. Plastics, including micro plastics, are now everywhere. They are the symbols of the Anthropocene in the current geological age and are becoming part of the earth's fossil record. Plastic has become a new habitat for marine microorganisms and is named "plastic layer". Despite actions and efforts, the amount of plastic in the ocean is estimated to be about 75 million to 199 million tons. Estimates of global annual emissions from land-based sources vary depending on the methodology used. Without necessary intervention measures, the amount of plastic waste entering the aquatic ecosystem is expected to triple from 9 to 14 million tons / year in 2016 to 23 to 37 million tons / year in 2040. If another method is used to estimate, this figure is expected to increase from about 19-23 million T / A in 2016 to 53 million T / a by 2030.
2. Marine litter and plastics pose a serious threat to all marine life and also affect the climate.
Plastic is the largest, most harmful and most persistent part of marine garbage, accounting for at least 85% of the total amount of marine garbage. It can cause fatal and sub fatal effects on whales, seals, turtles, birds and fish, as well as invertebrates such as bivalves, plankton, worms and corals, including entanglement, hunger, drowning, internal tissue tearing, asphyxia and hypoxia, light, physiological stress and toxicological hazards. Plastics also change the global carbon cycle through their impact on plankton and primary production in marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. Marine ecosystems, especially mangroves, seagrasses, corals and salt marshes, play an important role in carbon sequestration. The more damage we cause to the oceans and coastal areas, the more difficult it is for these ecosystems to offset and maintain resilience to climate change at the same time. When plastics decompose in the marine environment, they will transfer micro plastics, synthetic and cellulose fibers, toxic chemicals, metals and micro pollutants to water and sediments, and finally enter the marine food chain. Microplastics can be used as carriers of pathogenic organisms harmful to human, fish and aquaculture populations. When micro plastics are ingested, it will lead to changes in gene and protein structure of biological population, inflammation, interruption of eating behavior, slow growth rate, changes in brain development, and reduction of filtration and respiratory rate. It will affect the reproduction and survival of marine organisms and impair the ability of key species and ecological "engineers" to build coral reefs or bioturbate sediments.
3. Human health and well-being are being threatened.
Open burning of plastic waste, ingestion of plastic contaminated seafood, contact with pathogenic bacteria carried by plastic and harmful substances immersed in coastal waters will pose risks to human health and well-being. The immersion of plastic related chemicals into the marine environment has attracted more and more attention. People are worried that some of these substances will cause endocrine disorders. Microplastics can be inhaled into the human body through the skin and accumulate in organs including the placenta. For coastal and indigenous communities with marine species as the main food source, micro plastics absorbed by eating seafood pose a serious threat to the population. The impact of exposure to plastics related chemicals in the marine environment on human health is unclear. However, some of these chemicals are associated with serious health damage, especially for women. Marine plastics will have a wide impact on society and human well-being. They may discourage people from going to beaches and coastlines to enjoy sports and social activities, resulting in people's inability to obtain physical and mental health from the above cultural and recreational activities. If people know that attractive marine animals such as turtles, whales, dolphins and many seabirds are at risk, it may affect their mental health. These animals have important cultural significance for some communities. In the mainstream media, the stomachs of whales and seabirds are filled with pictures and descriptions of plastic fragments, which will trigger strong emotional fluctuations.
4. Increase the hidden costs of the global economy.
Marine litter and plastic pollution pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of coastal communities, as well as shipping and port operations. In 2018, the economic cost of the impact of marine plastic pollution on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as other costs such as plastic waste cleaning, is estimated to be at least US $6-19 billion. It is predicted that if the government requires plastics to pay waste management costs according to the expected quantity and recyclability in 2040, marine plastic emissions may bring us $100 billion of financial risk to enterprises. In contrast, the global plastics market in 2020 is estimated to be about US $580 billion, while the monetary value of marine natural capital loss is estimated to be as high as US $250 billion / year.
5. The threat posed by marine litter and plastic pollution has a multiplier effect.
The multiple and cascading risks caused by marine garbage and plastic pollution make their threats have a multiplier effect (multiplier effect). They can work together with other pressure sources, such as climate change and over exploitation of marine resources, resulting in more destructive effects than themselves. Marine garbage and plastic pollution will directly affect the changes of habitat in major coastal ecosystems, affect local food production, destroy coastal ecology and economic structure, and lead to extensive and unpredictable pollution Consequences, such as reduced resilience of coastal communities to extreme events and climate change. Therefore, we need to assess the risks caused by marine garbage and plastic pollution from a more comprehensive cumulative risk level.
6. The main source of marine garbage and plastic pollution is land-based garbage.
Of the estimated total plastic output of 9.2 billion tons from 1950 to 2017, about 7 billion tons became plastic waste, three quarters of which were discarded into landfills as part of the uncontrolled and mismanaged waste flow, Or dumped or abandoned in the natural environment (including the sea). Micro plastics can be decomposed by decomposing large plastic items, leachate from landfill, sludge and air particles in wastewater treatment system (for example, the wear of tires and other articles containing plastics), agricultural loss, ship breakage and accidental cargo loss at sea. Extreme events such as floods, storms and tsunamis can bring a large number of plastic waste fragments from coastal areas into the sea and accumulate on river banks, coastlines and estuaries. The global cumulative plastic production is expected to reach 340 from 1950 to 2050 Billion tons, we urgently need to reduce global plastic production and plastic waste into the natural environment.
7. The flow and deposition of marine litter and plastic pollution have continued for decades.
The flow of marine garbage and plastics at sea and offshore is controlled by marine tide, current, wave and wind. Floating plastics accumulate in marine cycles, and sinking materials are concentrated in deep sea, River Delta, mud land and mangrove. There may be a significant time interval between land loss and the accumulation of offshore and deep-sea sediments. Plastics floating in ocean currents were produced in the 1990s and earlier. Now, more and more hot spots may pose long-term and large-scale risks to ecosystem functions and human health. For example, in the Mediterranean region, a large amount of marine garbage and plastic accumulation has brought risks to millions of people; In the Arctic Ocean, plastics entering the marine food chain will destroy the natural habitat of the Arctic Ocean and cause damage to indigenous peoples and local iconic species; In East and Southeast Asia, where the population is dense and the livelihood of local people is highly dependent on the sea, it is threatened by a large amount of unmanaged garbage.
8. Technological progress and the development of citizens' scientific activities are improving the monitoring of marine garbage and plastic pollution, but the consistency of measurement results remains a challenge.
We have made significant improvements in effective and affordable global observation and investigation systems and protocols for detecting and quantifying waste and microplastics in physical and biological samples. However, scientists are still worried that there will be sampling bias in determining the absolute volume of micro plastics found in different habitats due to the high variability of physical and chemical characteristics and the differences of different sampling and observation platforms and tools. At present, there are 15 major operational monitoring plans related to marine waste action coordination, data collection framework, large data warehouse and portal projects, but the data and information provided by these plans are basically irrelevant. In addition to these plans, there are indicator processes and baseline data collection activities, which are being supported by an increasing number of networks, citizen science projects and around the world.
9. The recovery rate of plastics is less than 10%, and the greenhouse gas emissions related to plastics are large, but some solutions are emerging.
In the past 40 years, global plastic production has more than tripled. By 2020, the global plastics market will be worth about US $580 billion. At the same time, under business as usual, the global cost of municipal solid waste management is expected to increase from $38 billion in 2019 to $61 billion in 2040. It is estimated that by 2040, the greenhouse gas emission level related to the production, use and disposal of traditional fossil fuel plastics will increase to about 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (gtco2e), accounting for 19% of the global carbon budget. If another method is used to estimate, the greenhouse gas emission of plastics in 2015 is estimated to be 1.7gtco2e, which is expected to increase to about 6.5gtco2e by 2050, accounting for 15% of the global carbon budget. A major problem is that the recovery rate of plastics is very low, which is less than 10%. Millions of tons of plastic waste are lost in the natural environment and sometimes transported thousands of kilometers to the destination where plastic waste is usually treated by burning or dumping. In the process of classification and processing alone, the value of plastic packaging is estimated to be US $80-120 billion / year. Plastics labeled biodegradable are another problem. Because they may take years to degrade in the ocean, and as garbage, they may pose the same risks to human beings, biodiversity and ecosystem functions as traditional plastics. A single solution strategy will not be sufficient to reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean. A variety of collaborative systems are needed to intervene upstream and downstream of plastic production and use. Such interventions have emerged, including recycling policies, phasing out unnecessary, avoidable and problematic products and polymers, taxation, charging, deposit tax rebate plan, expanding producer responsibility plan, tradable license, eliminating harmful subsidies, green chemical innovation of safer alternative polymers and additives, changing consumer attitudes, etc, And through the new service mode and the ecological design of product reuse, the original plastic production will be reduced.
10. Progress has been made at all levels and a global tool is about to be launched.
An increasing number of global, regional and national activities are helping to mobilize the international community to end marine litter and plastic pollution. Cities, municipalities and large companies have been reducing the amount of waste flowing into landfills; Driven by the increasing public pressure, the regulatory procedures are constantly improving; Activism and local government action surged everywhere, including street garbage recycling, plastic recycling and community cleaning activities. However, it is still dominated by various business practices and national regulatory and voluntary arrangements. At present, there are already some international commitments to reduce marine garbage and plastic pollution, especially land-based pollution, and to limit the plastic trade with reference to several applicable international agreements and soft legal instruments to reduce the impact of marine garbage and plastic pollution on marine life. However, the international policies reached since 2000 do not have a global binding, specific and measurable goal of plastic pollution. This has led many governments, as well as businesses and civil society, to call for a global instrument on marine litter and plastic pollution