UK Pledges £61.4m To Help Commonwealth Eliminate Ocean Plastic

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a £61.4m package of funding to boost global research into reducing plastic waste and to help countries across the Commonwealth to stop plastic waste from entering the seas to begin with.

The UK Government announced that New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ghana have joined the UK and Vanuatu-led Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) in an agreement between member states to join forces in the fight against plastic pollution.

Britain, together with CCOA joint chair Vanuatu, will call on other countries to pledge action on plastics, be this by a ban on microbeads, a commitment to cutting down on single use plastic bags, or other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

“Through this ambitious alliance we will build on the UK’s world-leading microbeads ban and 5p plastic bag charge to harness the full power of the Commonwealth in pushing for global change and safeguarding our marine environment for future generations.”

To help do this, the UK has pledged a “war chest” of £61.4m.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “When it comes to our seas and oceans, the challenge is global so the answer must be too.

“Through this ambitious alliance we will build on the UK’s world-leading microbeads ban and 5p plastic bag charge to harness the full power of the Commonwealth in pushing for global change and safeguarding our marine environment for future generations.”

Developing countries signed up to the Alliance will also be eligible to bid for partnership support to improve waste management systems and implement other initiatives to stop plastic waste from reaching oceans.

Aid Match

In recognition of the “passionate response of the UK public to the issue”, according to Defra, from later this year the Department for International Development will also match pound-for-pound public donations to tackle the issue of plastic waste in the world’s oceans and rivers.

Open to bids from charities from 30 April 2018, the latest £20m round of UK Aid Match funding will be focused on the priorities agreed by our Commonwealth partners: disability; health; women’s empowerment; youth employment; prosperity; modern slavery; girls’ education; and oceans and plastics.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt – “The scourge of plastics is a global environmental challenge – and one that overwhelmingly impacts the livelihoods and health of the world’s poorest people.”

For the first time, the public will be able to double their donations to charities tackling the scourge of plastics waste in the world’s oceans.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “The scourge of plastics is a global environmental challenge – and one that overwhelmingly impacts the livelihoods and health of the world’s poorest people.

“We are joining forces with our Commonwealth partners, bringing together global expertise to stop plastics waste from entering oceans – and by matching pound-for-pound the UK public’s passionate response to the issue, we can make our shared ambition for clean oceans a reality.”

The Department for International Development will also support research into solutions to reduce manufacturing pollution, and carry out waste management pilot programmes to help tackle the waste from cities that too often ends up in the world’s oceans and rivers. This will protect the livelihoods and health of those that are affected by plastic pollution – while also providing new jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Improving Waste Management

Furthermore, the UK will commit £25m to help researchers approach the scourge of marine plastic waste from a scientific, technical, economic and social perspective. It will also put £20m to prevent plastic and other environmental pollution from manufacturing in developing countries.

To further support the work of the CCOA, £16.4m will be used to improve waste management at a national and a city level.

The CCOA will work in partnership with businesses and NGOs, including the World Economic Forum, Sky, Fauna and Flora International, the Coca-Cola Company and WWF to share expertise and experience and push for global change.

Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Sky, said: “In January 2017 we launched Sky Ocean Rescue to raise awareness of ocean health and to encourage the public to remove single-use plastic from their lives by making simple, everyday changes.

Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Sky – “We strive to be a responsible business and believe through our own behaviours that we can affect real change.”

“We strive to be a responsible business and believe through our own behaviours that we can affect real change. So, I am delighted to support the UK and Vanuatu Governments’ launch of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and we look forward to working together to find innovative solutions that will make a significant difference to the health of our oceans for current and future generations.”

The Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance will drive action in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, and will also sign up to and implement a number of international agreements to protect our oceans, such as the UN Clean Seas campaign, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and the London Protocol.

Poor waste management is a leading cause of plastics in the ocean, according to Defra – this is supported in a marine plastics briefing published by CIWM on World Water Day 2018.

This is why the Prime Minister has announced that all developing country members of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance can bid for DFID partnership support from a new £5m facility to improve waste management systems and implement other initiatives to reduce plastics waste.

Up to five developing countries will be supported to help them meet the ambitious political commitments they have made by signing up to the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance.

Defra will also be investing £2.4m to support the development of a new public-private delivery platform to help advance the ambitions set out by the CCOA.

Commonwealth Pilots

The Prime Minister has also announced that DFID will provide up to £3m to support pilot programmes in 2-3 Commonwealth developing countries, to help tackle the waste from cities that too often ends up in the world’s oceans and rivers.

This will focus on how to reduce the waste that ends up in the oceans and protect the livelihoods and health of those that are affected by plastic pollution – while also providing new jobs.

The UK will also be supporting six countries across the Commonwealth to develop national litter action plans focusing on plastics entering the oceans, through Defra’s £6m Commonwealth Litter programme. 

Manufacturing Pollution

The Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution programme will tackle the problem of pollution and environmental degradation generated by manufacturing processes in DFID priority countries across Africa and Asia.

Over five years (2018-2023) DFID will back a £20m research programme to generate evidence and practical solutions to address the problem of environmental pollution including plastics from manufacturing sources – a major contributor to waste creation.

CIWM Says

CIWM has been working closely with a number of organisations, including WasteAid, Tearfund and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to highlight the link between solid waste management and the growing tide of marine plastics pollution, including writing to the Prime Minister Theresa May and DfID and Defra Secretaries of State Penny Mordaunt and Michael Gove.

Last month, CIWM and WasteAid published a briefing document, ‘From the Land to the Sea’, which catalogues the impact that poor or non-existent waste collection and management practices in developing countries have on the growing quantity of plastic waste that is entering the oceans every year.

CIWM President Professor David C Wilson MBE – “A pro-poor, inclusive approach to improve solid waste management would provide a vital service to some of the world’s poorest communities, helping them to have a healthier place in which to live, grow and do business, whilst also creating jobs.”

More than 90% of marine plastics comes from land-based sources and it is estimated that mismanaged municipal solid waste in developing countries could account for 50-70% by weight of the plastics entering the oceans

“We are delighted that the Government has listened and taken action on a number of fronts, including research and practical support and aid to improve waste management systems,” says CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church.

“This is a complex and challenging problem, of which plastic pollution is only one aspect. With two billion people living without waste collection and three billion without controlled waste disposal, the poor management of solid waste is a global crisis, leading not just to land, water and air pollution, but also flooding, disease, disability, social inequality and climate change impacts.”

In the ‘From the Land to the Sea’ briefing, CIWM and WasteAid UK called on the UK Government to take immediate action by:

  • committing to increasing the proportion of its aid spent on waste management to at least 3% from its current estimated level of 0.3%;
  • championing the need for increases in aid to waste management at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and at the G7 this year, for example as part of the blue economy priority; and
  • spearheading the negotiation of a binding international treaty to tackle marine plastic pollution, which should have at its core prevention through proper solid waste management, as well as efforts to clean up existing pollution.

“CIWM will continue to press home this message to the Government,” says CIWM President Professor David C Wilson MBE. “A pro-poor, inclusive approach to improve solid waste management would provide a vital service to some of the world’s poorest communities, helping them to have a healthier place in which to live, grow and do business, whilst also creating jobs.

“It could also be a major step in tackling the marine plastics crisis, potentially halving the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans and reducing the wider environmental impact of waste on the environment.”


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