As Secretary John Kerry so eloquently said last week at the 2019 Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, Norway, the power to change the course of ocean pollution is in our hands.
Since last year’s Our Ocean conference in Indonesia, I’ve been amazed at the way new initiatives, actors, and ideas to fight ocean plastic have seeped into the public consciousness and the current conversation about ocean health and climate change. From corporate leaders signing up to large-scale capital commitments to the Ocean Cleanup Project’s sweeping up the Great Garbage Patch to plastic straw bans popping up in restaurants and cities around the U.S., we’re continuing to see real action to combat ocean plastic.
But all of these encouraging signs still fall massively short of the change we need to solve this challenge.
So one year later, where are we and what is the way forward? Where will we need to channel our investment dollars to bring about change at scale?
Right now I’m seeing three encouraging signs that suggest that the next year will be pivotal in bringing about the change we need:
1. The political will is there
2. Transforming waste into recycling is already working
3. We’re entering an era of innovation and new technologies that may help solve the ocean plastic crisis.
Signs that the political will is there to spark change
At a global level, we’ve seen so much international dialogue over the past year. Canada’s Ocean Plastic Charter, Norway’s international ocean campaign which includes a $200 million commitment to fight ocean plastic pollution, the Basil convention on preventing ocean plastic waste and last week’s Our Ocean Conference are just a few of the recent significant real-life examples that demonstrate that without a doubt ocean plastic is finally on the world agenda.
In South and Southeast Asia (SSEA) where I focus my efforts, we’ve seen lots of movement at the national level, too. In India, Prime Minister Modi has taken several steps to fight ocean plastic including a commitment to banning single use plastics. In Indonesia they have enacted an Extended Producer Responsibility regulation that will require plastic materials producers to have a higher level of recycled content. The Philippines has implemented a series of bans as well.