Connecting dots on plastic pollution

A world-leading scientist at the University of Plymouth has welcomed a new report highlighting that the predicted rise in plastic pollution spilling into the environment constitutes a planetary emergency.

Connecting the Dots: Plastic pollution and the planetary emergency was written by Tom Gammage, a BSc (Hons) Marine Biology graduate from 2014 who is now an ocean campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

It pulls together recent scientific data on the broad impact of plastics on climate, biodiversity, human health and the environment and warns that only a robust global treaty for plastics can address the problem.

The report also says humankind’s addiction to plastic – and failure to prevent it contaminating the food web – directly undermines human health, drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates climate change and risks generating large-scale harmful environmental changes.

The report has been welcomed by Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, who said it presents a rounded perspective on the issue of plastic pollution. He said:

“This report reaches a conclusion that like other global environmental challenges, such as the threats to biodiversity and climate change, the underlying cause of the plastics problem is rooted in unsustainable levels of production and consumption. A new global plastics treaty, with a legally binding instrument to address the full lifecycle of plastic, would potentially mirror existing approaches on climate and biodiversity. Such an initiative could considerably help prioritise and focus attention; and has the potential to guide the way to lasting solutions.”

Connecting the Dots has been released ahead of a major UN Environment Assembly meeting in Nairobi, scheduled to take place later this year, at which it is anticipated every nation’s relationship with plastic will be redefined and decided.

It makes recommendations on how to enforce multidimensional, long-term and collaborative policy which considers plastic pollution as a planetary boundary threat and takes into account its knock-on impacts on other environmental crises.

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology graduate Tom Gammage

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology graduate Tom Gammage

After graduating from the University in 2014, Tom worked in Indonesia, Costa Rica and Madagascar before joining the EIA in 2019. He said:

“The visible nature of plastic pollution has generated huge public concern but the vast majority of plastic pollution impacts are invisible. The damage done by rampant overproduction of virgin plastics and their lifecycle is irreversible. This is a threat to human civilisation and the planet’s basic ability to maintain a habitable environment.”

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