China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand pledge to cut back on plastic that ends in the sea

Although not yet formalised, the commitment was undertaken at a UN oceans summit that ended yesterday. For Card Turkson, an ecological conversion is needed as Pope Francis indicated when he said that “Care for our common home [. . .] is and will always be a moral imperative.”

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Some of the nations most responsible for much of the world's ocean plastic pollution, namely China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, have promised to start cleaning up their act.

Although not yet formalised, they made the commitment at a UN oceans summit that ended yesterday in New York, aimed, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, at “turning the tide” and showing that we can solve the problems humans have created. According to one recent study, the UN official said, plastic could outweigh fish – if nothing happens - in our seas by 2050.

Card Peter Turkson, who heads the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, addressed the conference. “If these present trends continue, this century may well witness an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us," he said.

The prelate noted the absence of any global agreement or body that can care for and protect the resources of the oceans. In view of the situation, he called for action on behalf of future generations who will inherit the fruits of our action.

“In many religious and cultural traditions, water is a symbol of cleansing, renewal and rebirth,” the prelate explained. As Pope Francis indicated, saving it requires an ecological conversion. What is more “Care for our common home [. . .] is and will always be a moral imperative.”

The New York meeting noted that 5 to 13 million tonnes of plastics flow into the world's oceans annually, much of it ingested by birds and fish.

According to estimates by the Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, about 75 per cent of land-borne marine pollution comes from just ten rivers, most in Asia.

In Thailand, the total amount of garbage finding its way into the sea was estimated at 2.83 million tonnes in 2016 - 12 per cent of which was plastic.

The Thai government says it had established a 20-year strategy to tackle the problem, including developing financial incentives for keeping plastic out of the sea and encouraging eco-packaging design and eco-friendly substitutes for plastics.

In Indonesia, the government is starting a mass education programme for schoolchildren, and in the Philippines new laws are being developed.