New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ghana have joined the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, a body co-chaired by the UK and the Pacific island nation Vanuatu, which seeks to combat marine plastics pollution.
The alliance has called for a ban on microbeads, a commitment to cut the use of single-use plastic bags and other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
Prime minister Theresa May has allocated £61.4m to research to help Commonwealth countries stop plastic waste from entering the oceans. The initiative came ahead of next week’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “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.”
The alliance will work in partnership with businesses and NGOs, including the World Economic Forum, Sky, Fauna and Flora International, the Coca-Cola Company and World Wildlife Fund to share expertise and experience and push for action.
In March, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Waste Aid charity published From the Land to the Sea, which described the impact that poor or non-existent waste collection and management practices in developing countries have on the growing quantity of plastic waste entering the oceans.
It said that more than 90% of marine plastics came from land-based sources, and estimated that mismanaged municipal solid waste in developing countries could account for 50-70% by weight of the plastics entering the oceans.
Welcoming the Commonwealth initiative, CIWM chief executive Colin Church said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened and taken action on a number of fronts, including research, practical support and aid to improve waste management systems.
“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.”