Have you thought about what plastic products you consumed over the past week? How many bottles, take away lunch boxes, straws, or shopping bags did you waste yesterday? Have you considered the plastic pollution impact?
The first the UK-China (Guangdong) Symposium on Marine Plastic Pollution was held in Guangzhou on Dec. 4th. The Symposium is dedicated to dialogue between Guangdong and the UK on the topic of plastic pollution and its impact on the marine environment, and to explore cooperation opportunities. More than 50 Chinese and British policy makers, scientific experts, representatives of the plastics industry, plastics processing industry, and NGO’s gathered to discuss issues such as the status of plastic pollution and the protection of the marine environment.
Plastic pollution has become a growing global environmental problem that threatens the environment, public health and sustainable economic development. The ocean as the common environmental resource connecting the world’s five continents has become the biggest victim of plastic pollution. So far, the total amount of plastic waste in the global ocean is about 150 million tons. Every year, 12 million tons of new plastic waste is discharged into the sea. According to the Allen MacArthur Foundation in the United Kingdom, by 2050, more plastic will be found in the ocean than on land. More seriously, 80% of marine plastic waste is plastic beads with a diameter of no more than 5mm. Every year, 950,000 tons of new plastic microbeads are discharged into the ocean, of which 35,000 tons come from makeup and personal care products. The microbeads are swallowed by marine organisms such as fish and eventually return to the human body through the food chain, endangering public health.
In February this year, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May met President Xi Jinping. They both agreed the world had a collective responsibility to tackle global challenges on behalf of future generations.
Xu Jinzhou, Director of the Cooperation and Exchange Division in the Department of Environmental Protection of Guangdong indicated that, “the total GDP of Guangdong is nearly 9 trillion yuan, ranking first in the country for 29 consecutive years. While maintaining sustained economic development, our province is also at the forefront of industrial transformation and upgrade, resource and energy utilization, and ecological environment management. However, the rapid development of the economy has brought tremendous resource and environmental pressures to bear on our province. How to promote the high-quality (environmentally friendly) development of our province has become an urgent problem that needs to be solved.”
Karen Maddocks, the British Consul-General attended to the Symposium and introduced, “in 2018 the UK government launched 25 Year Environment Plan, setting ou measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.”
Several experts shared the status of marine plastic pollution in the UK, macro policy frameworks, specific control measures, and technical solutions. Chinese experts from Jinan University, the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also detailed the current status, experience and prospects of marine plastic pollution control in Guangdong, the Pearl River Basin and the South China Sea.
Peng Xianzhi, a Research Fellow at the Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, demonstrated her research on Plastic debris in the aquatic environment and ecosystem of the Pearl River catchment area, saying, “Statistics have shown that population density and GDP growth are directly proportional to marine plastic pollution. It is necessary to reduce pollution from the source to better maintain marine ecology. Late control on marine pollution is costly and does not see good results.
Author: Xiaowen Fan
Editor: Simon Haywood