Side Event at Sustainable Development Forum to highlight Innovative Solutions for plastic free lifestyles

Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development - Second Meeting Santiago, Chile | April 19 2018

A growing number of plastics is entering our oceans and it is estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7[1] million tons of plastic finds its way to the marine environment every year. It has also been estimated that out of this amount as much as 50% consists of single-use plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, straws, lids etc. The production of plastic is estimated to quadruple by 2050, and improving solid waste management alone will not solve this ever-growing environmental challenge. Combinations of different solutions are needed to finally turn the tide on plastics and to achieve plastic-free lifestyles. It has to be tackled at all levels of society from policy making, production and consumption. Creating plastic free lifestyles means minimizing the dependency on plastics in every consumer decisions we make around food, mobility, housing, consumer goods and leisure.  This effort requires system thinking and integrated solutions to provide the “hardware” (regulatory frameworks, infrastructure, market signals, financial schemes etc) for the transformation of inclusive sustainable society and “software” (information, education, value, believes etc) for behavioral change. This is the time to walk the talk, link the pledges to actions, prevent from the root causes, and empower individuals with access, skills and knowledge.  

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to an astonishing biodiversity and natural wealth, that make up the foundations of many of the region’s economies. The Caribbean Sea, home to more than 700 islands and coastal countries, forms the lifeblood of the region’s tourism, maritime and fisheries industries. However, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, valuable coastal and marine resources are under increasing threat from land and marine-based sources of pollution. Pollution from solid waste, in particular from plastics, has emerged as one of the greatest global challenges, threatening the well-being of our environments, ecosystems and species. If not managed well, plastic has negative effects on human health, marine biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services, including fisheries, maritime transport, recreation and tourism as well as local societies and economies. For example, marine plastic debris may cause a reduction in income as a result of reduced fishing days or reduced tourist numbers. Microplastics also have ability to enter marine food chains and the potential risk for the environment and human health is real.

A number of outstanding efforts have been made globally and regionally, potentially providing successful models and exemplary cases across the region. Global commitments around marine pollution, especially plastic, are made through UNEA resolutions 1/6 “marine plastic debris and microplastics”, 2/11 “marine plastic litter and microplastics” and 3/7 “marine litter and microplastics”, adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Global Partnership on Marine Litter, furthering the Global Plan of Action for the Protection for the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA), the work of Regional Seas Programmes and the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals targets in particular 12.8[2] and 14.1[3]

The recently adopted Caribbean Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter Management for the Wider Caribbean Region (RAPMaLi) provides guidance on actions to protect the region’s fragile coastal and marine ecosystems from solid waste and marine litter. In addition, the UN Environment-led global campaign “CleanSeas” is supported by eleven countries in the LAC region.

At the national level more than ten countries in the LAC region have committed to ban single-use plastic bags, while other countries have imposed fees on single-use plastics.

More can be done to drive businesses, civil societies and individual behavior change towards plastic-free lifestyles.

Objectives of the side event:

The side event is organized by UN Environment Programme, in cooperation with CEPAL. The main purposes of the side-event are to:

  • Inspire action to achieve the SDGs related to plastic pollution and marine litter, such as SDG 6, 11, 12 and 14.
  • Showcase global, regional and national initiatives and innovative solutions to “beat plastic pollution”, in particular marine litter.
  • Discuss innovative ways to promote plastic-free lifestyles.

[1] Jambeck et al. 2015, Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean

[2] Sustainable Development Goal 12.8 “by 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature” (2015)

[3] Sustainable Development Goal 14.1 “by 2050, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution” (2015)