World

U.N. plans international panel to tackle plastic waste in oceans

Kyodo

The United Nations will form a panel to discuss measures to reduce plastic waste in the oceans, a source close to the matter has said.

Members of the panel, to be recommended by U.N. member countries, will study what options are available, what alternatives to plastic there can be and how effectively they could help remove around 10 million tons of such waste flowing into the oceans every year, the source said Saturday.

The panel will discuss policies that would include a potential legally binding international treaty and give guidance about what steps could be introduced in developing nations in particular, where the situation has become grave.

The panel will meet once or twice a year and report their discussions at the fourth session of the U.N. Environmental Assembly, to be held in Nairobi in March 2019, according to the source.

Some 8 million to 12 million tons of plastic waste are estimated to flow into the oceans every year, greatly affecting marine ecosystems and environments. There will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, according to an estimate by the United Nations.

The European Commission has adopted a policy to ensure that all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030.

Among developing countries, Kenya and Rwanda have banned the use of plastic shopping bags, but some are still lagging behind in adopting such measures.

Pollution from microplastics, which are created from plastics that break into small pieces with a diameter of less than 5 millimeters while floating in the sea, is also becoming a serious issue.

As microplastics absorb hazardous chemicals, they pose a danger to sea birds and fish that ingest in accidently.

Hideshige Takada, professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, said the need to strengthen such measures is increasing and it is important for societies to reassess their reliance on plastic.

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