UN gets behind Daily Mail's campaign on plastic waste

More than 100 nations will today sign a pledge to eliminate plastic pollution from the oceans.

At a global summit yesterday envoys agreed to a zero-tolerance policy to deal with the ‘planetary crisis’.

The head of the UN’s environment programme told the 7,000 delegates the Mail should be praised for campaigning on the issue. Holding up a copy of the newspaper, headlined ‘Let’s turn the tide on plastic’, Erik Solheim said: ‘Pollution is the biggest killer on the planet and we need to defeat it. 

UN Environment Programme head Erik Solheim waved the British newspaper aloft as he spoke about the devastating effect pollution is having on the environment at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya

UN Environment Programme head Erik Solheim waved the British newspaper aloft as he spoke about the devastating effect pollution is having on the environment at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya

The Daily Mail launched the campaign on Saturday with the front page headline 'Let's turn the tide on plastic'

The Daily Mail launched the campaign on Saturday with the front page headline 'Let's turn the tide on plastic'

‘We’re facing an ocean armageddon. Every year, we’re dumping at least eight million tons of plastic in our oceans.

‘If we continue to allow this to happen, by 2050 there is going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish. To tackle the problem of marine pollution we have to make this a kitchen table conversation.

‘This is happening. For example, the Daily Mail, one of the most widely read newspapers in the world, is putting the message out and this is really positive, really fantastic.’

Today, representatives of almost all of the countries attending the conference in Kenya will sign a pledge to deliver action. 

It is even likely to garner support from the United States – whose government under Donald Trump has been criticised for failing to protect the environment.

The UN resolution will establish an international task force and may also detail controls on the use of plastics and ambitions for improved recycling.

While not legally binding, it is hoped the treaty will prompt governments to set much tougher policies – and prompt business to do more.

The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on green policy.

Mr Solheim said: ‘A majority of 193 governments around the world will commit themselves tomorrow to preventing plastics entering the world’s oceans.’ He said there was very strong support for zero tolerance.

Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary for the BBC has shocked audiences with scenes of sea life, including whales, choking on plastic.

Last month researchers at Newcastle University revealed that creatures in the depths had been found with plastic in their stomachs.

Crustaceans found almost seven miles down, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, had swallowed microscopic fragments. The Daily Mail has been at the forefront of the movement to stop plastic poisoning our seas. This newspaper has championed the carrier bag tax as well as pushing for plastic microbeads to be removed from cosmetics. 

Beaches across Britain have been blighted by tonnes of waste plastic washed ashore

Beaches across Britain have been blighted by tonnes of waste plastic washed ashore

This litter and debris has destroyed the view of this beach on the Clyde Estuary

This litter and debris has destroyed the view of this beach on the Clyde Estuary

The banks of the River Thames in London are also heavily polluted by plastic rubbish 

The banks of the River Thames in London are also heavily polluted by plastic rubbish 

Here are the disgraceful scenes at the mouth of the River Mersey near Liverpool

Here are the disgraceful scenes at the mouth of the River Mersey near Liverpool

This beach in Bude, Cornwall, has been covered in plastic flotsam and jetsam 

This beach in Bude, Cornwall, has been covered in plastic flotsam and jetsam 

This rubbish was spotted by a photographer walking along the beach in Weymouth

This rubbish was spotted by a photographer walking along the beach in Weymouth

This grey seal is faced with a plastic bottle of detergent at Horsey Gap in Norfolk

This grey seal is faced with a plastic bottle of detergent at Horsey Gap in Norfolk

Here at Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight, rubbish is strewn across the sand and rocks

Here at Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight, rubbish is strewn across the sand and rocks

Mr Solheim said citizens had to put pressure on governments to take action – and they could help by not using throwaway cups and straws.

‘We have to stop treating the oceans like a dumping ground and we have to stop right now,’ he said. ‘We can only go so far with beach clean-ups and the like. The challenge is we have to stop plastics getting in the oceans in the first place. If we kill the oceans we kill ourselves.

‘The solutions are straightforward. There are plenty of natural alternatives to plastic beads in toothpaste or face scrub.

‘We don’t need food to be systematically wrapped in plastic, and we certainly don’t need plastic straws or throwaway plastic coffee cups.

‘There is no reason for plastic to end up in the ocean – it is basically happening through sheer laziness.’ Peter Thomson, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for the ocean, said: ‘There is no doubt that the meeting in Nairobi will be an important step in combating humanity’s pollution of the ocean with plastic.

‘There is no quick fix to this gigantic problem and many processes and methods will be required to correct the wrongs that we have brought upon the ocean with our plastic plague.’

Lisa Svensson, who is the UN ocean conservation chief, told the BBC: ‘This is a planetary crisis. In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean.’

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment said: ‘Countries around the world need to take urgent action to stop plastic entering our oceans and today’s UN agreement clearly demonstrates our shared commitment.

‘At home, the UK continues to be a world leader in tackling this issue – taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge and drawing up one of the world’s toughest bans on microbeads.’

DAILY MAIL LEADING CAMPAIGN 

The Daily Mail has been at the forefront of campaigning, including with the launch of a Take Back Your Bottles initiative. 

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: ‘We are taking significant steps to tackle plastic waste including plans to introduce a ban on plastic microbeads, taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our carrier bag charge and the launch of a call for evidence around deposit reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers.

‘We recognise there is more to do in this area, and we will be working with industry to explore how we can further reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste.’

The Government promised in the Budget to examine taxes on plastic and Environment Secretary Michael Gove is considering a deposit and return scheme.  

Britain is still falling short of its recycling target

Household recycling is flatlining as councils fail to tackle England’s rubbish mountain, official figures show.

Despite Government targets to recycle 50 per cent of household waste by 2020, England’s rate is just 44.9 per cent, with the rest sent to landfill or incinerated. Confusing waste collection rules, which can vary greatly between different council areas, and a lack of effort on their part to boost recycling have been blamed for the poor record.

Green groups also pointed the finger at manufacturers using increasing amounts of packaging that cannot be recycled. Some 22.8million tons of waste were collected from English households last year but only 10.2 million tons recycled – an increase of just 0.7 per cent on 2015.

Britons are only recycling 44.9% of waste with the rest heading to landfill or incineration

Britons are only recycling 44.9% of waste with the rest heading to landfill or incineration

The London Borough of Newham has a recycling rate of just 18% - the lowest in the country 

The London Borough of Newham has a recycling rate of just 18% - the lowest in the country 

By contrast, the amount of rubbish incinerated jumped 10 per cent to 10.2million tons. Total household waste sent to landfill did fall to 4.1million tons from 5.1million, however.

England’s recycling rate compares unfavourably with Welsh councils, which are recycling 54 per cent of waste.

Julian Kirby, of Friends of the Earth, said English councils had done little to boost recycling since 2010 when the Coalition government backed away from tougher targets. He said: ‘What we have seen since 2010 is councils giving up on their recycling ambition.

‘The reason councils aren’t doing more is because central government is giving up on the issue.’

Pulling down the national average is London, which had the lowest recycling rate in the country – with an overall rate of 33 per cent. At just 18 per cent, the worst-performing area was the East London borough of Newham.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron said: ‘It’s worrying that recycling levels including of plastic waste are now flatlining. Now is the time for bold action to boost recycling and tackle plastic waste.’

Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: ‘If we’re going to save our oceans from plastic pollution, we need the manufacturers of plastic packaging to take responsibility for the waste they produce.’

A Defra spokesman said it was encouraged to see the recycling rate rising, but said it was looking at further ways to boost rates and avoid waste as part of its ‘waste strategy’.