Plastic waste can cause $13bn financial damage annually – UNEP

Plastic waste can cause $13bn financial damage annually – UNEP

Monday, June 23, 2014 5:04 pm


Abuja – Plastic waste pose a threat to marine life, with conservative estimates of overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems standing at 13 billion dollars annually, according to a statement UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The statement, issued in Nairobi on Monday and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) online in Abuja on Monday, said that the concern over micro-plastics was expressed in two reports released at the opening of the five-day UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

The statement said that the 11th edition of UNEP Year Book examined 10 issues identified by previous reports over the past decade, including plastic waste in the ocean.

It said that the 2014 Year Book gave an update on each issue and provided options for action.

According to the statement, other areas covered include the environmental impacts of excess nitrogen and marine aquaculture, the deadly toll of air pollution and the potential of citizen science.

Valuing Plastic, a UNEP-supported report produced by the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) and Trucost, made the business case for managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry, the statement said.

The report, it said, put the overall natural capital cost of plastic use in consumer goods sector each year was 75 billion dollars, citing financial impacts resulting from issues such as pollution of the marine environment or air pollution caused by incinerating plastic.

“The report says that over 30 per cent of the natural capital costs of plastic are due to greenhouse gas emissions from raw material extraction and processing.”

The report noted that marine pollution was the largest downstream cost and that the figure of 13 billion dollars was likely a significant underestimate.

The report quoted Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, as saying: “Plastics have come to play a crucial role in modern life, but the environmental impacts of the way we use them cannot be ignored.

“These reports show that reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits from reducing economic damage to marine ecosystems.

“It can bring benefits to the tourism and fisheries industries, vital for many developing countries, to bringing savings and opportunities for innovation to companies while reducing reputational risks.

“Our economies are still largely fossil-fuel based, with the environmental, economic and health costs hidden.

“Scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic trapped in sea ice.

“Transported by ocean currents across great distances, these contaminated particles eventually become a source of chemicals in our food.

“The key course of action is to prevent plastic debris from entering the environment in the first place, which translates into a single powerful objective: reduce, reuse and recycle.”

According to the statement, large and unquantifiable amount of plastic waste enter the ocean from littering, poorly managed landfills, tourist activities and fisheries.

It said that some of this material sink to the ocean floor, while some float and can travel over great distances on ocean currents, polluting shorelines and accumulating in massive mid-ocean gyres.

“There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste — mortality or illness when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles, entanglement of animals such as dolphins and whales, among others.

“There are also concerns about chemical contamination, invasive species spread by plastic fragments, and economic damage to the fishing and tourism industries in many countries.

“For example, fouling fishing equipment and polluting beaches,’’ it added. (NAN)

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