Malaysia sends back 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic waste, to repatriate more this year

Malaysia sends back 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic waste, to repatriate more this year

SEBERANG PERAI, Jan 20 — Malaysia sent 150 containers of plastic waste weighing about 3,737 metric tonnes back to its 13 countries of origin since the third quarter of 2019, said Minister for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin.

She said France and United Kingdom have been co-operative in the process; out of the 150 containers, 43 were sent back to France and 42 to United Kingdom.

“The repatriation of the containers did not incur any costs on us which is unprecedented as the importers and shipping companies paid for the costs,” she said during a press conference after visiting the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) at Penang Port here.

The remaining containers were sent back to the United States (US) (17 containers), Canada (11), Spain (10), Hong Kong (9), Japan (5), Singapore (4), Portugal (3), China (3), Bangladesh (1), Sri Lanka (1) and Lithuania (1).

Yeo said there are 110 more containers, from all three ports in Klang, Penang and Sarawak, that will be sent back to nine countries by the middle of this year.

“A total 60 out of the 110 are from the US and we are working closely with the US government and agencies on the process,” she said.

The remaining containers to be sent back are to Canada (15 containers), Japan (14), UK (9), Belgium (8), Mexico (1), Hungary (1), France (1) and Jamaica (1).

She said each container weighs about 20 metric tonnes so the estimated weight of the plastic waste to be sent back are around 2,200 metric tonnes.

Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeoh Bee Yin (centre) speaks during a press conference after a site visit to the North Butterworth Container Terminal in Penang January 20, 2020.

“We will continue to take enforcement action to stop the import of plastic waste and close down illegal plastic waste factories here, we want the world to know that Malaysia is not a plastic waste dumping ground,” she said.She said a new national action plan on illegal plastic waste importation will be launched next month so that all agencies involved will have proper enforcement procedures to follow.She said the action plan will smoothen procedures for agencies such as Department of Environment, Customs Department, National Solid Waste Management Department, port authorities and local governments.

On enforcement action against illegal plastic waste factories in the country, Yeo said last year, joint operations by the police, customs, local councils, immigration and other agencies were held at a total 393 factories in the country.

“A total 218 illegal plastic waste factories were closed down and enforcement actions will continue to close down more illegal factories,” she said.

She said even if the factories were to reopen in a different state, the enforcement team will close it down again.

“We will act on any reports of these factories operating illegally in any states in Malaysia so we call on the public to be our eyes to report to us,” she said.

150 containers of plastic waste shipped back, 110 more to follow

150 containers of plastic waste shipped back, 110 more to follow

BUTTERWORTH: Malaysia has managed to send back 150 containers of unwanted plastic waste to their countries of origin, with France, the United Kingdom and the United States heading the list.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said this was “unprecedented” as the government did not fork out a single sen, with importers and shipping lines bearing the costs.

“It is not about money but dignity. We are not supposed to pay them to send it back. We do not want to pay a single sen. We are not the world’s rubbish dump,” she told reporters at Butterworth port today.

Yeo said the 150 containers, seized at Port Klang and ports in Penang and Sarawak, contained a total of 3,737 metric tonnes of waste.

Their countries of origin also included Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania.

She said another 110 containers, including 60 from the US, 15 from Canada and 14 from Japan, were waiting to be shipped back. The other containers came from the UK, Belgium, Mexico, Hungary, France and Jamaica.

She said the government was in touch with US agencies to help in the repatriation of the containers.

Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries have become a hub for plastic waste recycling after China decided to stop all plastic imports.

After a massive plastic dumping ground was found in Selangor two years ago, the importers moved up north, with Kedah being a prime choice for illegal recycling factories.

The illegal factories have reportedly spewed toxic air, especially in Sungai Petani, but environment authorities there have denied that the air is polluted.

‘Illegal factories will be closed, again and again’

Yeo said that when China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, many countries were unaware of how to handle containers being diverted elsewhere.

She said Malaysia has since come up with a comprehensive plan to strengthen enforcement through a special task force involving related agencies.

This, she said, led to a drop in illegal plastic waste being imported nationwide, although it has not been “wiped out” completely.

Yeo said the key measure to curb unwanted plastic imports was to stop them at the source – the ports of entry.

At the same time, she said, the Department of Environment (DoE) would continue to move in on illegal factories.

“We will continue to close (the illegal factories) again and again. We will see who is more persistent,” she said.

Yeo also said the National Action Plan for Importation of Plastic Wastes will be launched next month as a guide for enforcement agencies.

France agrees to take back 43 illegal waste containers from Malaysia

Reuters reported from Paris that Malaysia had shipped 43 illegal plastic waste containers back to France as part of a crackdown on the illegal trafficking of waste.

A joint statement by the two governments said the company responsible for shipping the containers has been identified and fined 192,000 euros (RM862,742). It did not identify the company.

 

Article originally posted in Free Malaysia Today.

A failure to face the climate emergency

A failure to face the climate emergency

2019 saw intensifying climate chaos and mobilization for decisive action. Days before COP25 was due to start in Madrid under Chile’s presidency, the UN Environment Programme announced that countries had to cut their global greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6% every year until 2030 to get on track for the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement – cuts that are five times deeper than what countries have already committed to in their Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs). Despite these high stakes, and as 2019 drew to a close, COP25 ended in failure.

As countries gathered to negotiate the Paris Agreement rules, rich industrialized countries continued to deny compensation to countries already hard-hit by climate change, and attempted to escape their responsibility by negotiating additional loopholes, while no deal was found on long-term climate finance. The USA, which is due to exit the Paris Agreement next year, once more distinguished itself by focusing on shielding polluters from accountability and obstructing progress. Chile had promised a “Blue COP” but the recognition of the importance of ocean and coastal areas was limited to attempts to monetize “blue carbon” sequestered in marine ecosystems in lieu of truly protecting them. 

If no progress was made, some damage was avoided with the lack of consensus on new rules for carbon markets (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement). In principle, carbon markets allow wealthy nations to buy emissions reductions from poorer countries to count toward their own targets. In practice, they are a shell game that allow countries to increase emissions while claiming to reduce them, all the while lining the pockets of financial services companies. The issue will come up again at COP26 in Glasgow next year.

On 6 December, half a million protesters took to the streets in Madrid, matched by a march in Santiago. Activists protested peacefully inside COP25 on several occasions, manifesting their dissatisfaction with the negotiations, which they repeated during the closing statements from indigenous peoples, women, NGOs and youth. 

The plastics-climate connection

Plastic pollution is one of many symptoms of the intrinsic unsustainability of the fossil fuels and petrochemicals complex at the root of the climate emergency. Plastics harm the climate at every stage of their lifecycle, particularly when they are burnt as waste, releasing considerable carbon emissions. Meanwhile, staggering investments into plastics infrastructure are paving the way for a dramatic increase in production by 2050. Plastics could account for 20% of global oil consumption by then.

Yet, the plastics-climate connection was not addressed in COP negotiations. Emissions from the waste sector are poorly captured in most countries’ national climate plans (known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs). Nevertheless, the dangerously-high carbon emissions from plastic waste incineration in its diverse forms (including pyrolysis, gasification, “plastic-to-fuel”) are well documented.

Plastics also remained a peripheral issue in official side events in Madrid, meagre progress from previous COPs where the issue was absent altogether. Some expert speakers acknowledged the climate impacts of plastic and other waste incineration, while others stressed the importance of plastics reduction and reuse within a circular economy. Meanwhile, corporate spokespeople for major plastic pollution offenders including Coca-Cola continued to hide their responsibility for growing volumes of single-use plastics in our economies behind overstated recyclability claims and false solutions such as bio-based plastics

In contrast, at the Social Summit (Cumbre Social) in Madrid, which ran in parallel to COP25, discussions and exhibits tackled the plastics-climate nexus from a variety of angles, including climate implications of its exponential production and the role of plastics reduction, deposit-return systems and zero waste systems and the impact of plastic waste incineration on the livelihoods of waste-pickers and informal recyclers.


“No hay COP, sí hay Cumbre”

While COP25 was moved to Madrid, Spain after unprecedented popular protests erupted in Chile that met with violent repression and other human rights violations by the Chilean authorities, activists and civil society organizations took part in a Peoples’ Summit (Cumbre de los Pueblos) in Santiago from 2 to 7 December. Over 1500 participants shared experiences and to strengthen global solidarity and local action through over 40 town halls, panel discussions and workshops across three spaces including the People’s Summit itself, the Women’s Tent and the Peace Village. GAIA took part and organized activities with representatives from its member organizations, including informal recyclers, from Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

The Peoples’ Summit’s final declaration emphasized the rights of nature and of all living beings that sustain the Earth, exposed waste incineration as a false solution, and highlighted the importance of zero waste systems at the community level.

 

Green groups question Government’s sinister moves to lift the ban on incineration

Green groups question Government’s sinister moves to lift the ban on incineration

(Quezon City, Philippines, December 16, 2019)—Environment groups today lambasted the Philippine government’s moves to lift the anti-incineration provisions of the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. On November 13, the bills amending these laws  passed at the committee level in Congress to make way for thermal waste-to-energy facilities, which are essentially still incinerators.  Also recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued guidelines for the establishment and operation of waste-to-energy facilities, in violation of the country’s incineration ban.

“The Philippine Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act have been praised among environmental circles worldwide for their zero waste vision as well as the anti-incineration provisions. It is unfortunate that it is our government bodies who are mandated to protect the environment and the Filipino people from harm who are the purveyors of these dirty technologies,”  said Froilan Grate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Philippines Executive Director. “Although there is a complete ban on incineration, it has not deterred the DENR, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to push for waste incinerators in the guise of waste-to-energy projects,” Grate added.  Currently, there are WtE incinerator proposals in Quezon City, Davao, Cebu, Pampanga, and other provinces in the country, most of them set to be operational by 2020.

Incinerators are facilities used to burn waste using high temperature releasing various types of toxic emissions including lead, mercury, dioxins and furans, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, acidic gases (i.e., SOx, HCl), heavy metals (cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic, and beryllium), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and chlorinated and brominated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the process.  Direct exposure to such toxins risks the health of facility workers and residents in nearby communities while indirect exposure, through the food chain, poses global risks. (1)

Toxic emissions, high costs, and bad history

Contrary to the proposal’s emphasis that there is no high operational costs and environmental risks involved with waste incineration, Merci Ferrer of WOW Dumaguete countered, “what was not mentioned in the bill is that other than the toxic emissions that come from burning waste, there is still the fly ash and bottom ash (FABA) that needs to be handled carefully as toxic waste after burning.  The Philippines currently does not have the capacity to this.”

Learning from the experiences of other communities who ended up in debt when they failed to provide the volume of waste for an incinerator to run which is under the “put or pay” contract with incinerator industries, “waste incineration will not solve the country’s waste problem.  It will put the country in debt from the private contractors, and worst, open the door to imported waste.  In short, we will open our doors to toxic incinerator facilities and the toxic emissions that comes from its use while they (industry) enjoys tax holidays.  This is the height of hypocrisy for the government to claim they are solving solid waste problems when they are in fact opening the country to waste importation,” said Beau Baconguis, Asia Coordinator for Break Free From Plastic (BFFP).

The bill will grant waste treatment facilities 7 year tax holiday and 10 year tax and duty exemption on imported capital equipment and vehicles.

“It seems that our leaders have already forgotten the 26 defunct medical waste incinerators that the Philippine and Austrian Governments have entered into in the 90s,” said Ferrer.  The 26 medical waste incinerators were decommissioned after it failed to pass emission levels set by the supplier, the Dept. of Health (DoH), and the World Health Organization (WHO).  “The Philippines paid US$2 million every year for the incinerators until 2014 even when they were decommissioned as early as 2003 ,” Ferrer added.

(1)    https://www.no-burn.org/wp-content/uploads/Pollution-Health_final-Nov-14-2019.pdf

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Sonia G. Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 5969286, sonia@no-burn.org

Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic, +63 917 6070248, jed@breakfreefromplastic.org

Note: The 26 medical waste incinerators were hosted in Albay Provincial Hospital (now Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital), Baguio General Hospital, Batangas Regional Hospital, Bicol Regional Hospital, Cagayan Valley Regional Hospital, Davao Medical Center, Davao Regional Hospital, Dr Paulino Garcia Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Ilocos Regional Hospital (now Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center), Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in Pampanga, Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Ilocos, Northern Mindanao Medical Center, Philippine Orthopedic Hospital, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Teofilo Sison Memorial Medical Center (now Region I Medical Center) in Pangasinan, Vicente Sotto Sr. Memorial Medical Center in Cebu and Western Visayas Medical Center

To date, the Philippines remains the only country in the world that has a total incineration ban.

BFFP U.S. shares the biggest victories of 2019!

BFFP U.S. shares the biggest victories of 2019!

Get to know Break Free From Plastic U.S.! Our groups are campaigning for systems change all across the plastic pollution lifecycle, from extraction to dumping & burning and everything in between. Hear from our members directly on the biggest victories from 2019!
– Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic US/Global

 

Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, Seadrift, Texas:
“In 2016 a small ragtag team of Waterkeeper volunteers began collecting evidence on Lavaca Bay of illegally discharged pellets and powder from Formosa Plastics, a 2500 acre plastic giant located in Point Comfort, Texas. Four years later the small group won a record-breaking lawsuit and settlement of $50 Million with all monies going to local environmental projects and the promise of zero discharge of all plastic pollution from the ‘serial offender’ Formosa Plastics.”

 

Diane Wilson collecting plastic pellets for research.

 

Young Grguras, Post-landfill Action Network, Philadelphia:
“This year PLAN (The Post-Landfill Action Network) brought on its first staff member dedicated fully to plastic free schools and had two college campuses sign onto our Campus Pledge: The College of the Atlantic and Eckerd College. We are so excited that these schools have made commitments, and are eager to organize alongside the forty-plus colleges also working on this campaign. In the new year, we are also looking forward to our Beyond Waste Summits, and working on our solidarity for the international plastic free campus movement.”

 

Diego Jimenez, Lonely Whale, Seattle, Washington:
“Thanks to the incredible support of our collaborators, Lonely Whale launched Question How You Hydrate, a new campaign that is waking the world up to the problem of our reliance on single-use plastic water bottles and empowering consumers to choose and champion more sustainable alternatives. Sparking a conversation about single-use plastic water bottles and their role in the global plastic pollution crisis, the campaign is driving action through strategic collaborations with NGOs, celebrities and social media influencers in addition to global institutions. Through these strategic collaborations, Question How You Hydrate has already reached more than 50 countries, empowered legislators to publicly call for action, introduced an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles, encouraged corporate campuses to stop using single-use plastic water bottles in their offices and launched the Museum of Plastic. The Lonely Whale team is excited for continued collaboration across all global BFFP members to inspire further actions that support a mass culture shift away from single-use plastics.”

 

Claire Arkin, GAIA, Berkeley, California:
“Thanks to the incredible persistence of our members in Southeast Asia and BFFP partners in the United States and around the world, we were able to shine a light on how the global plastic waste trade enables wealthy nations like the U.S. to dump their plastic problem onto other countries, primarily in the Global South. GAIA released an investigative report uncovering how this problem was impacting communities on the ground, and soon after a group of BFFP members descended upon the UN meeting demanding greater transparency and accountability for the global plastic waste trade. The ratification of the Norway Amendment— a step forward in this fight to stop this global injustice–is proof that BFFP members are a powerful force when we unite across borders.”

 

Photo of GAIA members working to ratify the Norway Amendment!

 

Emily DiFrisco, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Chicago, Illinois:
“Plastic Pollution Coalition organized a digital campaign to pressure Amazon.com to reduce their plastic footprint on the earth. Thousands of people and organizations Tweeted at Amazon.com and more than 5,300 people signed the petition, illustrating the power of organizations joining forces. Our voices are louder together. We look forward to working together with BFFP members to shift corporate practices in the year ahead.” 

 

Eve Fox, Beyond Plastics, Bennington, Vermont:
“Beyond Plastics has had a busy and exciting first year! Highlights include helping to pass the nation’s most far-reaching (so far) single-use plastic pollution law in the state of Vermont – the final was very similar to our model Plastics Trifecta legislation that bans single-use straws, polystyrene foam and bags in one fell swoop. Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed it into law in mid-June. We also managed to pass the Plastics Trifecta (officially known as the Plastic-Free Hudson River Act in the city of Troy, New York in September. We are also proud to be leading the charge in opposing the misnamed “Save Our Seas Act 2.0” in Congress by forming a coalition of over 100 organizations, delivering a sign-on letter to Senators signed by these groups, generating grassroots activist phone calls and emails to Senate offices, highlighting the bill’s shortcomings with members of the media, and working directly with Senate legislative staffers to educate them about the realities of plastic pollution and the limitations and risks inherent in this piece of legislation. We continue to call for a meaningful bill that will effectively reduce plastic pollution rather than industry-endorsed greenwash.”

 

Sam Pearse, The Story of Stuff Project, Berkeley, California:
“After the movement’s success in passing the EU’s groundbreaking Plastics Directive in late 2017, The Story of Stuff Project worked with partners in California to bring ambitious legislation to the US — raising the bar to meet the true scale of the plastics crisis. The level of support across the state to pass this legislation has been such that our movement was within earshot of passing the Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act just nine months later. Thanks to the unprecedented efforts of groups across the state, we now have an opportunity to deliver the landmark legislation in early 2020.”

 

Break Free From Plastic members in Sacramento, California

 

Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Brooklyn, New York:
The Mind the Store campaign challenges the largest retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals in products and packaging and develop comprehensive safer chemical policies. To protect families, communities, and workers, we are working to transform the marketplace and drive a competitive race to the top. Over the past year, in response to the campaign, a growing universe of retailers have launched policies to reduce and eliminate toxic chemicals in plastics and other consumer products. For example, for the first time ever, major retail grocers and restaurants are focused on eliminating classes of toxic chemicals, such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), ortho-phthalates and bisphenols from food packaging materials, which have been found to be a source of exposure to harmful contaminants. A number of retailers launched safer chemicals policies including Ahold Delhaize, Lowe’s, Sephora, and Staples, targeting harmful chemicals for action in plastics and other products.”

 

Jacqueline Omania, 5th-grade teacher and Oxford Heirs to Our Oceans Chapter Leader, Berkeley, California:
“Oxford Heirs to Our Oceans, a student group of elementary school activists, was successful in helping to pass Berkeley’s Disposable Free Dining Ordinance in January 2019. These passionate students have been compared to the local versions of Greta Thunberg as their speeches expose the truth behind plastic “recycling” and the urgency to move to reusables for the sake of our precious environment.  Their experiences reaching near-zero waste in their classroom remind us that simple small actions do matter. Their efforts garnered the Oxford Heirs the Sierra Club’s Emerging Voices Award; their acceptance speeches focused on the need to address plastic pollution now for their generation and those to come. The Heirs are currently on the streets documenting the rollout of the new law by interviewing customers and business owners regarding the Vessel reusable cup program.”

“I don’t just believe that this ordinance was the right choice, but I know that it will change the way we live now and in the future. This law could lead to California to become a Zero Waste state. This could be the beginning of saying  Goodbye to plastic FOREVER.” – Fiona Groth Reidy, age 11, Berkeley, California.

 

Student activists of Oxford Heirs to Our Oceans

 

Lauren, UPSTREAM Communications & Outreach Coordinator, Portland, Maine:
“2019 has been a historic year for local governments to #breakfreefromplastic and take the trash out of our dining experience, thanks to UPSTREAM’s leadership in building Indisposable Communities! Kicking off the year with the unanimously passed Disposable-Free Berkeley ordinance in CA, UPSTREAM has since launched the National Reuse Network to spark innovative solutions across the SF Bay region, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Boston and communities in between and beyond. Learn more about the momentous success in Berkeley as featured on the Indisposable Podcast, and check out how this model ordinance helps solve single-use plastic pollution on UPSTREAM’s video here!

 

Katie Allen, Executive Director, Algalita Marine Research and Education, Long Beach, California:
Algalita turned 25 this year!  We celebrated with a special expedition to the North Pacific gyre in partnership with the Korean Broadcasting System, who produced a plastic pollution documentary that was broadcasted to millions of households across South Korea.  Also in 2019, we hosted our 9th annual International Youth Summit on Plastic Pollution – an event that supported 24 action campaigns across eight countries.  We directly trained 623 educators on how to integrate plastic pollution curriculum into their classrooms and helped lead phase one of a district-wide transition to zero waste schools in Long Beach, CA.  Our zero waste retail outpost, BYO at Algalita, reached over 18,000 product refills in 2019!”

 

Marie Mekosh, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Washington, DC:
“This year, CIEL celebrated the power of what our movement can achieve when we combine our strengths and work together. With partners working across every stage of the plastic lifecycle, we released two groundbreaking reports that exposed how plastic is a human health crisis hiding in plain sight and how plastic production and disposal threatens our global climate. As countries negotiate global solutions to the plastic crisis, CIEL has worked to ensure that they consider and address plastic’s impacts at every stage of its lifecycle, including through a petition supported by one million people. And our collective efforts have paid off: In May, 187 countries took a major step forward to control plastic waste dumping under the Basel Convention — a critical victory for communities around the globe working to Break Free From Plastic.”

 

CIEL staff working to control plastic waste dumping at the Basel Convention

 

Baani Behniwal, Policy Associate, Californians Against Waste, Sacramento, California:
“Plastic pollution was a hot topic in the California Legislature in 2019, with the introduction and near passage of SB 54/AB 1080 – The California Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act. These identical bills, aimed at reducing the amount of waste generated from single-use packaging and foodware, made it almost all the way through the legislative process thanks to an unprecedented amount of support from across the environmental community, local governments, businesses, labor unions, and more. With these bills coming up for a final vote at the beginning of the year, as well as a ballot measure in the works for the fall, 2020 is bound to be a monumental year for tackling the plastic crisis in California.”

 

Marina Ivlev, Director of Communications, 5 Gyres, Los Angeles, California:
“5 Gyres turned 10 in 2019 and celebrated the year with the following projects: TrashBlitz mobilized 25 partner organizations and over 600 Angelenos to collect data across Los Angeles. With our brand new web-based app, we collected robust data on waste type, material, and brand. We found that food and beverage packaging dominated, which confirms our findings from our BAN List 2.0 research! In 2019 our Science Programs Director, Carolynn Box saw the results of her work on a three-year study that found over 7 trillion pieces of microplastics enter the San Francisco Bay each year! 2020 will be an exceptional year with our ambassadors getting a chance to build with one another at the first-ever Ambassador Summit and TrashBlitz expanding to three new cities; Portland, Denver, and Brooklyn!”

Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more from our members in 2020! 

 

#BrandAudit2019 in Tunisia

#BrandAudit2019 in Tunisia

“This was an opportunity to be a part of change in the world. Fighting against the plastic monster has been my main focus for over ten years. Plastics are one of the biggest threats to the planet.” – Camy Mathlouthi, founder of Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte movement

According to this 2018 WWF report, the global cost of ocean plastic pollution is approximately $13 billion USD per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.  This includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism, two sectors which provide many jobs in my country of Tunisia on the southern Meditteranean coast.

Today, the Meditteranean is one of the seas with the highest concentrations of plastic pollution in the world, with plastic accounting for 95% of the waste in its open sea, on its seabed and on its beaches (WWF 2018). Much of this waste washes up on our beaches in Tunisia, but this plastic comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France (WWF 2018).  

Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte – “For a Clean and Green Tunisia” – is a movement trying to spread the word by engaging students and youth to be environmental stewards. We accomplished many beach cleanups, workshops and continue to work as hard as we can to reach people in all areas of Tunisia.  

Break Free From Plastic provides a real vehicle to attack this huge problem. The 2019 Brand Audit helps to accurately identify the big corporate polluters through citizen science. As environmental activists and citizens of the world, we are committed to influence these big corporate polluters to change the packaging of their products.  This is the most efficient way to reduce plastic pollution all over the world. It is our duty to our environment, for our children, and for our grandchildren.

On World Cleanup Day 2019, we conducted our own brand audit for the first time. We explained the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit initiative to our volunteers, and all of our crew was motivated and committed to following the BFFP brand audit methodology. At the end of the clean up, people told me that they “feel so good helping our nature.”  The neighborhood locals in the neighborhood of Ezzahra (where we conducted our cleanup and brand audit) were very grateful as well, telling us “Thanks folks! Nice mission for the country and the planet!”

As a teacher, it is my personal mission to make the new generation aware of the dangers that threaten our planet. Plastics cause major damage to the Mediterranean. As a mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to participate, protect and care about the next generation. Our Mediterranean is worth it.  

 

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