By Winnie Kabintie
The benefits of the blue economy will not be reaped if countries do not focus on preserving marine ecosystems particularly by dealing with plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is the biggest threat to the marine/aquatic ecosystems according to the United Nations Environment.
Current estimates by the United Nations Environment show about eight million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year with and warns that plastic waste dumped into the ocean could increase tenfold by 2020 outnumbering fish in the ocean by 2050.
BUILDING THE GLOBAL MOMENTUM ON MARINE/AQUATIC PLASTICS LITTER
I caught up with Merjin Tinga popularly known as “The Plastic Soup Surfer” from the Netherlands during a side event titled Building the Global Momentum on Marine/Aquatic Plastics Litter in the just concluded Sustainable Blue Economy Conference hosted by Kenya and he gave insights on how Kenya can control the plastic bottles menace by adopting a deposit program.
The Plastic Soup Surfer has been at the forefront spreading awareness on plastic pollution and pushing for solutions to curb the crisis.
“There is a crisis in the way we dispose plastics, its clogging up our waste systems,” Tinga said.
“In 2013 when the first news reports on plastic pollution started reaching us, it’s then that i started noticing the plastic washing up on my local surf beach and decided to build my first surfboard from plastic waste. This is also when I really started to study the plastic pollution problem,” he said .
The Plastic Soup Surfer Resolution
“In 2017 I petitioned the Dutch parliament to adopt a petition on deposits that would see 90 % less littered plastic bottles within three years and they adopted it and passed a resolution that came to be known as the “plastic soup surfer resolution” he further stated.
The resolution was used this year by the government as the basis for a new Dutch policy on small plastic bottles deposits.
How Plastic Bottles Deposit Works
The plastic bottles deposit schemes works by providing consumers with an incentive for returning used bottles to collection outlets. For every bottle that a user deposits, they get a refund of a couple of cents.
According to the Merjin Tinga, 40 countries and regions have already adopted the deposits scheme and its working.
“Deposits is the low hanging fruit to tackle a large portion of mismanagement waste and get a very high collection and recycling rates. Consumers love it and opinion polls all over the world show 80% strongly in favour of deposit return systems,” he said.
KENYA LAUDED FOR PLASTIC BAGS BAN
Merjin Tinga lauded Kenya for the plastic bags ban saying it will help a great deal in reducing plastic pollution in the oceans.
“I am really honoured to be in Kenya because whenever I give talks on plastic pollution in the Netherlands, I always use Kenya’s toughest plastic bags ban as an illustration and am happy because I did not see any plastic bags anywhere walking around today,” said The Plastic Soup Surfer.
A professor from Nigeria who had attended the blue economy conference, however, pulled the rug under Kenyan government officials when he criticized the organizers of the event for providing water to delegates in plastic bottles.
“I find it odd and ironic for Kenya, which speaks of having successfully banned plastic bags but in such a conference we are being given water in plastic bottles,” The professor said.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Keriako Tobiko, who was present in the event, however, told the good professor that Kenya only takes credit for banning plastic bags not plastic bottles even though the consideration to effect a ban on the latter was underway.
Kenya announced a ban on the manufacture and import of all plastic bags on August 28, 2017, in a move The Guardian described as “the world’s toughest ban on plastic bags”.
The effects of plastics bottles pollution in Kenya are usually seen whenever it rains in the city as roads flood due to poor drainage systems, which are always clogged up by plastic bottles.
SDG14: life below water