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Good News, at Last

4 Mar 2022

Alicia brings up us to scratch on developments in the field of (micro)plastic pollution.

We, plastic pollution scientists, are usually told that we are on the gloomy side of environmental sciences, pointing at the issues that need to be fixed urgently. So, let me focus on the fresh good news from my field (which don’t happen very often) instead of showing the pollution from my deep-sea samples. I will leave that for next time.

This week, the UNEP agreed on developing a legally binding plastic treaty starting later this year and aiming at having it ready by 2024. Here I list three points about the plastic treaty with some personal comments:

  1. It will be international and legally binding
    • It will actually make a real change. I hope that the changes are focussed on short term deadlines, not only to tackle single-use plastics but also to regulate the so-called, often not so green, bioplastics. Not to mention the corporate greenwashing and social injustice. Am I asking for too much…?
  2. It will assess and legislate the complete life cycle of plastics
    • This means that it will not just focus on one side of the problem. It will actually legislate all the steps from the production to the end of life – or the beginning of the next one in an ideal circular economy scenario (!). I personally hope that it also includes the social side of the problematic
    • This is great; a global environmental problem such as this can only be fixed if all sides are included.
  3. It will be based on international cooperation

I was lucky enough to be somehow involved in microplastic pollution research since 2014, which was the early days of my field. In the past eight years, I have seen some positive change but also quite a lot of greenwashing in parallel to the increase of emissions and mind-blowing negative findings from my peers. The fact that this treaty is already in the making is probably the most important news that we have seen so far. All the hard work from thousands of people, not just academics, is finally paying off!

On another news, the fifth and final paper of my PhD was accepted for publication this week - on the same day of the plastic treaty agreement!

Lastly, I will be a speaker at the next online UN Ocean Decade Conference. I will give my vision of a healthy and resilient ocean and how we as a society can achieve this.

Marine Geosciences Research Group

University College Cork

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, North Mall Campus, University College Cork, North Mall, Cork City, T23 TK30