More than 200 countries agreed to a United Nations resolution at a meeting in Nairobi to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea, a move that some delegates hope will pave the way for a legally binding treaty.
If current rates of pollution continue, there will be more plastics in the sea than fish by 2050, said the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which organized the meeting.
Eight million tons of plastics, bottles, packaging and other waste are dumped into the ocean each year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, UNEP added.
"There is very strong language in this resolution," Norwegian environment minister Vidar Helgesen told Reuters Newsagency.
"We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures, and that will be done internationally for the next 18 months."
Norway, which initiated the resolution, has seen the evidence of the damage pollution causes firsthand, he said.
"We found microplastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat," added Mr. Helgesen.
“In January this year, a rather rare species of whale was stranded on a beach from exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In his stomach they found 30 plastic bags ”.
China is the largest producer of plastic waste, but has started making efforts to reduce it, said UNEP chief Erik Solheim.
"If there is one nation changing right now more than anyone else, it is China, the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous," Solheim said.
Solheim finally wants governments to ban and redesign some packaging.
"We are going to abolish the products we don't need, if you go to tourist places like Bali, a lot of the plastic collected from the oceans is actually straws."
Under the resolution, the countries agreed to start monitoring the amount of plastic they put into the ocean.
"While this is not a treaty, significant progress is being made, 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic entering the sea," said UNEP's chief public defender, Sam Barrat.
"Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa today announced measures including bans on plastic bags, new marine reserves and campaigns to increase recycling," added Barrat.
By David Twomey
Original article (in English)