COMBATING OCEAN PLASTICS
Over the last 5-10 years, there has been growing public and political awareness of the issue and increasing concern regarding the impacts of marine debris, specifically marine plastics. Images of seabirds and whales with stomachs full of marine debris are regularly reported across mainstream and social media with the G7 Leaders declaration 2015 identifying it as a major global problem alongside other key environmental issues of our time. Impacts of marine debris were reported for 663 species in 2012 with over 50% of instances involving entanglement in and ingestion of, marine debris. This can cause significant injury to marine life, and in many case, can lead to death through infection, starvation, and toxication. Reports suggest that all known species of sea turtles, about half of all species of marine mammals, and one-fifth of all species of sea birds have been affected by entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.
Although plastic waste leakage to the marine environment is a global issue, it is estimated that 55-60% of waste leakage to the marine environment comes from just 5 emerging markets. The Philippines is ranked 3 in the amount of marine plastic produced, estimated to release 0.28-0.75m tonnes/year of plastic into the marine environment, 5% of all plastics entering the marine environment each year globally.
At MCP we have been undertaking weekly beach and dive clean up work since 2015. However, cleaning our beaches alone is not going to solve the problem so in August 2017 we launched a specific project focused on marine plastics. Through an intense data collection exercise and a sample of local beaches, we identified a wide range of initiatives that we would like to peruse to tackle the issue of marine plastics. We are currently focused on:
- working with the local municipality to implement a ‘plastic bag free market’ policy to be piloted at Negros Oriental’s largest ‘geto’ market – Malatapay Market;
- working with local Barangays and the Municipality to improve local solid waste management;
- replacing the current styrofoam buoys used to mark marine protect areas with more sustainable and heard wearing options.
We are looking for an interns/thesis students/professional placements to continue our work in this area, including:
- continuing (and leading) our beach and dive clean up monitoring and evaluation work in order to:
- monitor and evaluate patterns and trends over time;
- map accumulation of underwater debris in order to engage with relevant marine based industries;
- establish the difference in materials found at different sites and potential sources to inform our prevention initiative work.
- work with the communities and local governments to implement marine plastic prevention and/or recycling initiatives;
- work with communities and local governments to improve solid waste management practices;
- investigate presence and impacts of microplastics at a local level, for example, concentrations in local fish stocks.