Updates on SDG Goal 14 in VietnamVietnam is a tropical country in Southeast Asia with a coastline along the South China Sea. The livelihoods of Vietnam’s people and much of its economy depends on oceans for fishing and tourism. It also has a connection to the global economy through shipping lanes. SDG Goal 14: Life Below Water became a top priority for the Vietnamese government in the past few years. Updates on SDG Goal 14 in Vietnam show that the government believes in a multilateral approach to protecting marine life. Achieving SDG Goal 14 would prevent the collapse of one of Vietnam’s largest industries and protect citizens from slipping into poverty.

Overview of SDG Goal 14

SDG Goal 14 calls for the conservation and sustainable use of all marine resources. The U.N. finds that “improved regulations, together with effective monitoring and surveillance, have proven successful in reverting overfished stocks to biologically sustainable levels.” The U.N. also finds that such conservation efforts are low in developing regions. A commitment to SDG Goal 14 is also imperative because, economically speaking, the global value of marine and coastal resources amounts to $3 trillion annually. This equates to an estimated 5% of global GDP. Vietnam’s multilateral approach to implementing marine conservation efforts could have a significant impact on SDG Goal 14.

The U.N. identified several targets for SDG Goal 14 with individual timelines for each. Upcoming deadlines for targets include reducing marine pollution significantly by 2025 and sustainable management of fishing and tourism industries by 2030. SDG Goal 14 indicates that Vietnam successfully prevented overexploitation of ocean fish stocks. However, the U.N. found that major challenges remain for Vietnam in achieving clean ocean waters. The setbacks on ocean cleanliness counteract the progress on marine life protection. Because of this, the U.N. determined in 2019 that Vietnam’s progress on SDG Goal 14 is stagnant. To achieve the 2025 target and make progress on SDG Goal 14 overall, Vietnam must prioritize marine pollution.

Vietnam’s Actions Toward SDG Goal 14

The Vietnamese government identifies plastic litter as a significant cause of marine pollution. This creates a barrier to achieving SDG Goal 14. In 2020, Vietnam developed the National Action Plan for Management of Marine Plastic Litter, which sets ambitious goals to reduce pollution in government-controlled waters. This plan aims to reduce plastic litter in oceans by 50% by 2025 and by 75% by 2030. To do so, the government developed strategies to target the pollution from the source. This includes eliminating single-use plastic in coastal tourist areas and cooperating with international partners to find better ways to manage land waste.

This long-term strategy for combating marine pollution builds upon the progress made from short-term initiatives. For example, Vietnam hosts a national Sea and Islands Week every June since 2009 to motivate citizens to engage in ocean-conserving activities. This inspires local action to stop marine pollution such as beach clean-ups and behavior-changing campaigns to reduce litter.

Partnerships for SDG Goal 14

In addition to national initiatives, Vietnam engages in multilateral strategies to combat marine pollution. Vietnam signed on to the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The declaration commits Southeast Asian countries to protecting oceans and promoting international cooperation to achieve sustainable management of shared ocean space. Cooperation on the issue is crucial for Southeast Asia as much of the coastlines overlap and are governed by multiple authorities. In line with targets set by the U.N. for SDG Goal 14, the declaration aims to greatly minimize marine pollution by 2025.

To accommodate the goal, ASEAN released the Regional Action Plan for Combating Marine Debris in May 2021. The five-year plan offers countries very specific strategies for reducing marine pollution. Some strategies mirror Vietnam’s national initiatives such as reducing the inputs to marine pollution that originate from land and finding alternatives to plastic. However, ASEAN also developed highly specific guidelines for long-term projects, such as phasing out single-use plastics and improving the measurement and surveillance of marine debris. Partnering with multilateral institutions increases Vietnam’s ability to achieve SDG Goal 14.

Sustaining the Economy

As a coastal nation, Vietnam relies heavily on oceans to sustain its economy and support its population to rise out of poverty. SDG Goal 14 directs developing countries such as Vietnam to conserve marine life and restore clean waters to oceans. The Vietnamese government’s plans of action show its commitment to fully achieving this objective. Overall, the updates on SDG Goal 14 in Vietnam look hopeful. With plans in place, Vietnam is set to make significant progress on SDG Goal 14 in the next few years.

Viola Chow
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste in IndonesiaPlastic waste in Indonesia is a significant problem but the government and other actors are now taking action to address it. Indonesia’s plastic waste problem causes multiple environmental and economic issues, which exacerbates poverty. New measures and efforts could help get the country on the right track and improve the prospects of many.

The Plastic Waste Crisis

Indonesia is currently dealing with a waste crisis both on land and in the oceans surrounding the country’s islands. Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to the abundance of plastic waste in the ocean. This waste has harmful economic consequences for the country and its people.

Indonesia currently produces 6.8 million tons of plastic waste per year, with only about 10% of it ending up in recycling centers. About 625,000 tons of annual plastic waste ends up in the oceans. Landfills are typically in very close proximity to communities, leading to toxic wastewater seeping into nearby farmland and hindering the growth of crops.

This also flows into rivers, impacting the livelihoods of those who depend on the river’s water. The fishing industry also suffers from the impact of plastic pollution in the oceans as marine life is affected. Viral videos of trash-choked beaches in tourist destinations like Bali also alarm the tourist industry, a huge boon for Indonesia’s economy. There is concern about the potential impact of this excessive pollution on tourism. Fortunately, the issue has received acknowledgment and there are plans to address the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia.

Individual and Community Action

Individuals, groups and the government are stepping up to end and mitigate the plastic waste crisis in Indonesia. Awareness of the problem is the first step. Local Indonesians have played a significant role in starting movements and increasing awareness.

For example, Melati and Isabel Wijsen established the environmental nonprofit Bye Bye Plastic Bags when they were just 12 and 10 years old. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has become one of the largest environmental nonprofits in Bali and is helping to educate children on the environmental harm of plastics.

Another individual, Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano, founded the social enterprise Waste4Change. It educates the populace on sorting and sustainably managing waste.

Community cleanup initiatives have also become popular recently. Beach cleanups are simple and effective ways to get people involved. In August 2018, more than 20,000 people mobilized in 76 locations across Indonesia for a one-day beach cleanup that also raised awareness of the waste crisis.

Government Action

Both local and national levels of government have taken the most important steps to end the crisis of plastic waste in Indonesia. The island of Bali banned all single-use plastics at the end of 2018. The capital of Jakarta also banned single-use plastic bags in its shopping centers and street markets in 2020.

Indonesia’s national government has rolled out a very ambitious plan to end the plastic waste problem. It aims to minimize marine plastic waste by 70% by 2025 and be entirely rid of plastic pollution by 2040. Indonesia created five action points to make it easier to meet these overall goals:

  • Reduce or replace plastic use by avoiding single-use plastic packaging
  • Rethink the designs of plastic products and packaging to allow for multiple-use and recycling
  • Double the current plastic waste collection of 39% to 80% by 2025
  • Double current recycling capacity by investing in infrastructure capable of processing an additional 975,000 tons of plastic annually
  • Develop or expand on proper waste disposal infrastructure that can process an additional 3.3 million tons of plastic waste annually

Though reducing plastic waste in Indonesia and its oceans is a challenge, ordinary people and the government of Indonesia are taking proactive steps. These efforts will have a positive impact on livelihoods, the economy and the health of people. The future looks bright for a cleaner Indonesia.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

The Ocean Cleanup OrganizationSeven years ago, The Ocean Cleanup organization launched as a Dutch nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using autonomous, solar-powered cleaning systems. Now, as part of a new initiative, the organization is rolling out barges in major rivers as an upstream solution to global, prolific marine debris.

Marine Plastic Pollution

At least eight tons of marine plastic enter the oceans each year, where a majority floats on the surface before breaking down into non-biodegradable microplastics. Around 80% of marine debris flows through rivers before reaching the ocean. Because a handful of countries are responsible for a majority of marine debris, cleaning just 10 major polluting rivers of waste would stop a significant amount of debris from ever reaching the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup Organization

Based in the Netherlands and led by a 26-year-old entrepreneur, Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup organization has plans that include fitting the world’s 1,000 most polluting rivers with waste removal systems over the next five years. The organization’s research indicates that 1,000 specific rivers are responsible for 80% of the pollution.

The Interceptor Concept

Solar powers the waste removal systems, and they are scalable and largely autonomous. Each one uses barriers to direct waste along the river to a floating “interceptor” barge, which loads waste with a conveyor belt into containers that local municipalities can then dispose of. Individual interceptors can collect 50,000 kilograms of waste each day, though “in optimal conditions up to double this amount can be achieved.”

The interceptor concept, designed in 2015, was first utilized in the Cengkareng Drain, Indonesia, where it has remained. The Ocean Cleanup has since partnered with local governments to deploy three more interceptors in Malaysia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. By placing each one downstream from the last major source point in a river, they manage to fill all containers every few days, though they sometimes fill up in only a few hours.

Impact of Microplastics

Marine plastics’ widespread and harmful effects on marine life are well-documented, with hundreds of species ingesting, suffocating and entangling themselves in plastics. The global impact of aquatic microplastics, by contrast, is an emerging field of study. Appearing in tap water, beer and salt, they have appeared in water samples taken from every ocean. In 2019, the World Health Organization called for more research into microplastics and a drastic reduction in plastic pollution.

An environmental health report published in 2018 stressed the risk of consuming microplastics in seafood. “Because microplastics are associated with chemicals from manufacturing that sorb from the surrounding environment,” the report finds, “there is concern regarding physical and chemical toxicity.”

Consequences of Marine Plastic Pollution

While microplastics are under-researched, larger marine waste has concrete impacts on water-adjacent communities because marine plastics kill wildlife and disrupt local ecosystems, harming livelihoods and impeding tourism. More pressing, severely polluted waterways exacerbate poverty and poverty-related issues, especially among young children. According to experts at UNICEF, children living in South Asian slums frequently play in rivers and shores contaminated with waste, excrement and agricultural runoff. Since many lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities, this makes poor water-adjacent communities hotbeds for preventable illnesses.

The Ocean Cleanup found that marine plastic is responsible for between $6 billion and $19 billion of economic costs annually. These costs “stem from its impact on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, and (governmental) cleanups,” and do not even account for the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost because of its public health impact.

Hopes for the Future

The Ocean Cleanup organization hopes to significantly reduce plastic pollution in oceans. Once fully implemented, the waste removal systems aim to reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 50% every five years. The organization’s latest endeavor is a line of sunglasses made from plastic removed from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With all proceeds going toward expanding cleanup efforts, this is the most stylish way an ordinary person can contribute to a greater cause.

– Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Marine Biodiversity in MexicoLike all U.N. members, Mexico is subject to an annual Sustainable Development Goal Report report. This year, Mexico ranks 69th out of 193 countries with a score of 70.44 out of a possible 100. Significant challenges remain in 16 of Mexico’s 17 sustainable development goals (no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, etc). Mexico holds its highest rating in SDG 14: Life Below Water. This goal aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marines resources for sustainable development.” While SDG 14 is positive for Mexico, the U.N. report states that “challenges remain” and details the trend as “moderately improving” but at a level insufficient to reach the ultimate goal. Listed below are the five indicators for progress toward achieving SDG 14 and protecting marine biodiversity in Mexico.

Protected Marine Areas

According to the U.N., Mexico continues to improve its protection of key marine biodiversity areas. The country is currently on track to achieve this critical component in the overall fight for protecting life below water. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works in partnership with other NGOs and the Mexican government to protect marine biodiversity. TNC’s main concern is the 700-mile long Mesoamerican Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. With encouragement from TNC and other NGOs, the Mexican government now designates about 25% of its marine areas as protected areas (MPAs). This includes the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, which encompasses 34 million acres and is home to hundreds of aquatic species. MPAs and coral reef conservation are crucial measures for protecting marine biodiversity in Mexico.

Ocean Health Index: Clean Waters Score

Significant challenges remain in maintaining clean waters. Mexico has a score of 64.43 for keeping “chemicals, excessive nutrients (eutrophication), human pathogens and trash” out of its waters. The Mexican organization Villa Duendes has taken a unique approach toward encouraging people to clean up their local waters. They offer free nights in their sustainable domes for anyone who brings five garbage bags of plastic from Mexican beaches/waters. Villa Duendes also operates the Mar Amor Project, which partners with local fishing companies, environmental foundations, governments and communities to collect plastic waste from the ocean and upcycle it for re-use.

Fish Caught from Overexploited Stocks

The SDG report declares this indicator to be in a better position than the clean waters score, but the score is decreasing as of the latest calculation. The most recent estimate finds that almost 35% of fish caught in Mexican waters are from species that are overexploited or collapsed. The ocean conservation organization Oceana criticizes mishandling by Mexico’s National Fisheries Institute and alleges corruption. Oceana warns that sharks, red snapper, bluefin tuna, grouper and octopus are endangered due to continued overfishing. Less marine biodiversity in Mexico could not only cripple aquatic ecosystems but also local economies reliant on fishing.

Fish Caught by Trawling

Trawling is a fishing method in which fishermen drag nets along the seafloor to catch a species of fish en masse. This technique does incredible damage to marine habitats, particularly coral reefs. It also compounds problems related to overfishing by indiscriminately trapping whatever species happens to be in the net’s path. These bycatch (unwanted fish that are inadvertently netted) are often thrown back dead or dying into the ocean. Fortunately, the SDG’s latest estimates put Mexico on track to effectively eliminate trawling, although challenges do remain.

Marine Biodiversity Threats in Imports

This indicator determines whether or not marine biodiversity in Mexico is being harmed by mass importation. Developed nations with the capacity to import a variety of marine goods generally receive poor scores in this category. For example, seafood-loving Japan is one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to overfishing. Japan’s now depleted fish stocks are nowhere near enough to satisfy the insatiable seafood appetite of its people. Thus, Japan has to import huge quantities of fish, resulting in a low score for marine biodiversity threats embodied in imports. When it comes to imports that threaten marine biodiversity in Mexico, the nation is currently at a level of sustainable development. This indicator is a major boost to Mexico’s SDG 14 score.

The Mexican government recognizes the threat to its oceans and is taking steps in conjunction with NGOs, fisheries and local communities to protect marine life. While Mexico has much work to do, its efforts to protect its oceans and life below water are admirable. Clean waters are one of the areas where Mexico has the most work to do toward achieving SDG 14. However, if the Mexican people can follow the example they set in protecting key marine biodiversity sites, then there is real hope that the country can continue on its path to SDG 14. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Villa Duendes and Oceana are among the catalysts striving to protect the oceans and its inhabitants.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Lotus flowers are used to make lotus face masks in Cambodia to address PPE waste and a high face mask demand. Several activists and actors have raised alarm over the potentially devastating effects that personal protective equipment (PPE) can have in terms of increasing pollution around the world. There have been reports of PPE waste collecting on coasts around the world. Plastic pollution negatively impacts ocean health and, for maritime nations, this could translate to economic losses and the loss of livelihoods for those working within the ocean economy. One study by Plastics Hub found that if every person living in the UK utilized a single-use face mask for every day of 2020, it would contribute an additional 66,000 tons of plastic waste. It is unclear how much of this waste could end up in marine environments, but with 150 million tonnes already circulating the earth’s water, there is a pressing urgency to address the unsustainability of single-use face masks to fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, an eco-friendly designer in Cambodia created lotus face masks to address this PPE waste.

Is There a Way to Combat PPE Pollution?

Cambodia is not exempt from the negative impacts that pollution can have on marine environments. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identifies Cambodia as being highly dependent on its aquatic resources for both food security and the livelihoods of the Cambodian people.  In 2013, Cambodia averaged 700,000 tons of fishing and aquaculture production.  At a conference on maritime issues in Cambodia in 2015, hosted by the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, speakers highlighted the risk pollution poses to the economic livelihoods of those who depend on the marine economy.  The FAO has also spoken about the degradation of the marine habitat in the country due to pollution. Photographer Niamh Peren described one scene of coastal pollution in Sihanouk, Cambodia as “mountains and mountains of plastic.”

Pollution in the marine environment is a global problem. Due to the nature of the ocean’s currents, marine plastic pollution does not respect national boundaries and one country’s actions will not be enough to address the problem alone. However, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, is implementing an innovative solution to tackling plastic pollution, while simultaneously diversifying the economy in Cambodia and alleviating poverty rates in the country.

Turning Unwanted Lotus Stems into Organic Fabric

Delaval’s lotus face masks are made utilizing ancestral techniques of producing lotus fiber from lotus stems, which are commonly regarded as waste within the country. The entire process of creating sustainable lotus face masks is entirely eco-friendly, as well as biodegradable.  The fabric produced using lotus fibers is remarkably efficient at filtration and, according to Delaval, is a superior fabric due to its light texture and breathability. The eco-textile company Samatoa, which Delaval manages, produces lotus masks that meet the standards of both the United States’ CDC and France’s Association Francaise de Normalization, making them an effective alternative to plastic single-use face masks.

Samatoa also values the tenets of fair trade and has made a positive impact on the livelihoods of poor Cambodians in the Battambang province. The company has provided employment that empowered thirty Cambodia women to be financially independent and provide for their families. According to Samatoa, the wages earned by company workers are twice what they would receive from other textile work in the country. Additionally, the company ensures that workers have access to a number of benefits, including trade union rights, paid leave and health insurance.

Impact of Lotus Face Masks

Delaval’s innovative solution to plastic pollution produced from single-use face masks gained international attention. The company he manages, Samatoa, is striving to increase production and capacity to improve the lives of an additional 500 women. Samatoa also provides educational opportunities to lotus farmers on sustainable farming practices, further improving the lives of the Cambodian people. Deval’s lotus face masks provide a sustainable solution to the problem of PPE waste while simultaneously providing economic development to rural communities in Cambodia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Pixabay

Blue Economy
With over 70% of the world covered by the ocean, economists across the world are working to discover ways to integrate its varied resources into the world economy. One of the newest and most innovative visions of the future of the marine economy is termed the “Blue Economy.” This vision states that the responsible use and stewardship of the world’s maritime resources can be used as a tool for unprecedented economic growth, the fight against world poverty and the sustainability of the ocean environment. The strategic and sustainable use of the oceans has incredible growth potential and is also appearing to be a key factor in the development of small island nations.

Growth Potential

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has projected that by 2030, the ocean economy will double from 2010 levels, adding $3 trillion to the global economy.  The World Bank has already invested $3.67 billion USD in its Blue Economy program, underscoring the universal acceptance of its potential. Today, fisheries contribute $270 billion USD  to the global economy, and with more sustainable fishing practices in place, their contribution to the global GDP will only continue to grow. Eighty percent of global trade currently operates via ocean transport and, according to the World Bank, the volume of seaborne trade is expected to quadruple by 2050.

One country that is currently experiencing the results of the Blue Economy is Bangladesh. Bangladesh has large growth potential in the maritime arena given that, according to the World Bank, it has recently gained international clearance to use the resources of a 121,110 square kilometer marine area “equivalent to more than 80 percent of the country’s total land area”.  The highest growth sectors of the new Bangladeshi Blue Economy are fisheries, shipbuilding, offshore renewable energy, shipping and tourism.  The World Bank projects that further key investments in the Blue Economy could produce a “ten-fold increase” in the production of aquaculture in Bangladesh. The prospect of job creation and economic transformation for the country’s poorest coastal populations is promising.

Includes the World’s Poor

Some of the world’s poorest countries have broad access to ocean resources: thus, the integration of the Blue Economy could provide economic benefits for countries and individuals as well as greater food security and improved health. By reducing pollution in the oceans, more people could be able to find work in the booming aquaculture economy. Governments’ efforts to maintain sustainability has the potential to increase their transparency and stability, leading to better resources for their citizens. Rising ocean levels disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries; however, the blue economy will work to stem these changes.

Evidence of the inclusivity of the Blue Economy comes from the West African nation of the Gambia. In 2012, an organization of female oyster harvesters gained exclusive rights from the Gambian government to a key fishery. Due to the high quality of the local natural resources, the price of oysters harvested in this area doubled. As a result, nearly 400 women in the organization gained access to microloans and financial literacy programs able to aid in their fight against poverty.

Future Focused

The Blue Economy has a focus on sustainable technologies. Offshore renewable energy would provide small developing island and coastal nations with many high demand jobs in addition to energy benefits. Offshore renewable energy is more reliable than land-based technologies and does not have the same adverse effects on the environment that fossil fuels do. Offshore renewable energy is taking off across the globe, and if the world’s poorest countries are included in its growth, it could lead to developmental benefits for those nations.

The Blue Economy is a vision for the future that maximizes sustainability, production and anti-poverty mechanisms. Since many of the world’s poorest countries have a lot of access to ocean resources, aquaculture could provide them with new economic possibilities. With rising ocean levels, which have a greater effect on poorer countries, the Blue Economy could stem those changes and hold the key to a more prosperous future.

Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty
Since the 1970s scare, the state of the earth, specifically in regards to climate change, has been a hot topic of conversation in the scientific community. The degradation of farmlands, dangerous weather patterns and the gradual deconstruction of global ecosystems are becoming more apparent. With a growing cause for concern, scientists, corporations and individuals have come to understand that a change must occur.

On the other hand, alleviating global poverty is a pressing issue also. The world could dramatically reduce international poverty with longterm investment and adequate programming. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine where to allocate resources. Despite this conundrum, three companies have proven that resource allocation might not have to be a choice if they become sustainable companies reducing poverty. The Plastic Bank, Chr. Hansen and M-KOPA have dramatically improved the lives of impoverished and/or food insecure individuals while maintaining a corporate focus towards alleviating global sustainability issues.

3 Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty

  1. Plastic Bank: The Plastic Bank is a Canadian company that started in 2013 with the goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean. Impoverished and overpopulated areas with little to no waste management systems are primary sources of ocean plastic build-up. The organization works with local residents in Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and soon Brazil to mitigate plastic waste by mobilizing locals. It accomplishes this by imploring the citizens to collect and deposit plastic buildup in exchange for credits that they can use to buy necessities such as food, medicine and cleaning products. Not only does this reduce individual waste production, but it improves the lives of those who partake in the exchange and those around them. Plastic Bank has committed itself to the implementation of activities to educate these communities about ecological health and the science of sustainability in addition to trading labor for goods.
  2. Chr. Hansen: Chr. Hansen began in 1873 as a single pharmaceutical factory and has grown into a global force in food production and sustainability. In 2019, Corporate Knights acknowledged the Denmark-based company as the world’s most sustainable company. The organization continues to pursue these sustainability goals through the improvement of natural food longevity agents and reducing dairy waste. Further, the company floods investment into alleviating food insecurity with a primary focus on the second U.N. Sustainable Development goal. To accomplish such a goal, the company works with local agencies and/or other civil society organizations to support local, small-scale dairies in developing countries.  Chr. Hansen also devotes attention to the dairy market in Northern Africa where camels are more common than cows. Through this work, the company is investing in research about processing for preservation to decrease camel milk waste and giving local residents affordable access to these products.
  3. M-KOPA Solar: M-Kopa Solar is a Kenya-based company that has implemented solar power to over 750,000 homes and businesses in the region. Not only does the company provide clean energy, but these highly efficient systems also provide low-cost energy to the user. M-KOPA provides rural and off-grid individuals with the comfort of electricity that would otherwise be fiscally or physically inaccessible. Not only do the consumers benefit from the energy but there is also potential to profit from the sale of that power to others. Providing this energy permits consumers to focus less on how to afford power and gives them autonomy. M-Kopa is one of the few African-based sustainable companies reducing poverty within the residing country. This organization is working to expand its reach further through Kenya and into other regions.

These companies have proven that resource allocation is not a choice. These three sustainable companies reducing poverty have done so through corporate missions and societal impact initiatives.

Kayla Brown
Photo: Unsplash

Oil Spills Are Contaminating the World's Water Sources

Oil spills happen all over the world. These oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources and destroying marine life. Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that more than 1 million gallons of oil contaminate the oceans. These oil spills cost the world important natural resources. Oil spills can happen in many ways. Some are accidental spills while mining the oil from the Earth; others happen due to oil rig malfunctions, attacked tankers or drowned tankers. The containment and clean-up of these spills can cost millions even billions of dollars.

Top 6 Major Oil Spills

The top six major oil spills in the world as of early 2019 are:

  1. The 1991 Gulf War Oil Spill resulted in 240 million gallons of oil spilled.
  2. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill (also considered the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill) resulted in an estimated 53,000 barrels of oil spilled into the ocean every day for 3 months.
  3. The 1979 Ixtoc 1 Oil Well Spill resulted in 140 million gallons of oil spilled.
  4. The 1979 Atlantic Empress Oil Spill spilled 88.3 million gallons of oil.
  5. The 1983 Nowruz Field Platform Oil Spill spilled 80 million gallons of oil.
  6. The 1991 ABT Summer Oil Spill resulted in 51 million gallons of oil spilled.

 Just these oil spills alone have caused many lost lives and damage to marine life and the ecosystem on which humanity depends. When marine life is attacked, it has an effect on world populations. Oil spills kill thousands of marine life species when they occur. While cleaning the oil spills does save some, it is not before the damage has been done. Humans partly rely on marine life to survive.

Poverty and Water Contamination

Oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources because it makes water unconsumable. It contaminates parts of the ocean and can seep into the clean water supply that humans and other species need in order to survive. It can seep into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water naturally connected to the ocean. While developed countries have access to clean water by manufacturing companies, many underdeveloped countries do not. Poverty ridden countries tend to suffer the most when water is contaminated due to lack of access to water bottles or barrels to collect rainwater.

Furthermore, the World Wildlife Fund posits that approximately three billion people around the world rely on seafood as their only source of protein. Oil spills continue to impact an already suffering ecosystem. Around 85 percent of marine fish stocks have already been either fully exploited or overfished. Add these two factors together and the marine life that poverty-ridden countries rely on begins to decrease and an already struggling country begins to fall even more.

ISCO Is Trying to Clean Up the Oceans

The International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) is a nonprofit NGO that was established in 1984 and has members in over 45 countries. ISCO has helped clean up multiple oil spills including Exxon Valdez in 1989, the Gulf War Oil Spill in 1991, Lebanon Oil Spill in 2006 and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill in 2010.

Along with the aiding of cleaning up oil spills, ISCO also helps to raise co-operation and preparedness worldwide, promoting technological development and making knowledge on spill control available for all organizations when needed. Some recommended safety tips on preventing spills include regular inspections of containers including both piping and mechanical properties, proper loading and unloading procedures and proper training.

Why and how oil spills are contaminating the world’s water sources are important for society to take notice in because it costs hundreds to millions of dollars to clean up but will already have done damage towards contaminating water sources and damaging marine life ecosystems which affects poverty-ridden countries. Many oil spills can be avoided if more action towards taking safer steps to obtaining and transporting oil is taken. By increasing the safety of these actions, oil spills can begin to stop contaminating water sources.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Unsplash

single-use plastics

In December of 2018, Peru‘s Congress passed a national law to significantly discourage and limit the use of plastics. The law was discussed for nearly a year prior to a unanimous vote in support of it. Over the past several years, plastic accumulating in and contaminating water sources has become a global crisis. With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface quickly becoming polluted, Peru‘s efforts to do their part in eliminating single-use plastics is a momentous stepping stone in cleaning up the planet.

Peru’s Response

The issue with single-use plastics is that they are virtually everywhere. Their easy accessibility has created nothing short of a man-made disaster. However, companies around the world are coming up with more sustainable options in hopes of remedying the issue and easing the country’s transition away from plastic.

Peru’s Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz explains that they intend to transition to “reusable, biodegradable plastic or others whose degradation does not generate contamination by microplastics.” Peru‘s law regulates the consumption of single-use plastics by drastically reducing the production of disposables. Therefore, inevitably forcing consumers to seek out alternatives to plastic, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment.

The Devastating Affect on Wildlife

Fish consume an average of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal damage and death. This means that larger marine mammals and human seafood eaters who consume the affected fish can become very ill. The South American country is home to 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline is known for its delicacy ceviche. The Environmental Ministry spearheaded the campaign “I don’t want this in my ceviche” in order to get more people on board with reusable bags.

This issue spreads far wider than the ocean; it affects each ecosystem that it comes into contact with. This is not limited to sealife. Birds often ingest or get caught in the plastic. Ingested plastic doesn’t break down in the birds’ stomachs and can lead to death. In addition to ingestion, marine mammals often become entangled large pieces of plastic. In fact, at least 700 species get entangled in plastic waste, some of which are already endangered.

Long-Term Plans

The Environment Ministry estimates that Peru uses 947,000 tons of plastic each year with 75 percent of it being discarded into landfills and only 0.3 percent being recycled properly. With this law, Peru is doing away with common disposable items, such as plastic straws, foam packaging and plastic tableware. It is anticipating getting rid of plastic bags entirely within three years by placing a tax on them. It will also ensure that plastic bottles are at least 15 percent recyclable within the next three years.

Additionally, the country plans to place a limit on the number of plastic products being distributed as well as imported and exported within the country. The Peruvian government also banned tourists from bringing single-use plastics into 76 of the country’s cultural sites, including the historic site and tourist destination, Machu Picchu.

This initiative is just the beginning of a larger movement to undo the damage that humans have done to the plant over generations. Hopefully, other nations across the globe will acknowledge Peru’s efforts and also be inspired to eliminate single-use plastics.

—Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Pixabay

Plastic For ChangeUsually, the highest rates of plastic waste are correlated with areas highest in poverty. In fact, 80 percent of ocean plastic comes from areas of high poverty. What if there was a way to use plastic for change to clean up the ocean, and in doing so, lift people out of poverty?

Solutions to the Plastic Problem

This is the very motivation behind the Plastic Bank. Founded in 2013 by David Katz and Shaun Frankson, Plastic Bank is a nonprofit that pays people in poverty-stricken areas to pick up ocean trash. The organization pays these individuals a digital income in order to monitor corruption and ensure accuracy. Plastic Bank also throws in benefits including school tuition, cooking oil and more for people in these countries.

So far the organization has completed one major project in the Philippines, employing fishermen for $2.50 an hour (nearly double the average wage in the Philippines) who were able to remove three tons of waste as a result. Plastic Bank is working in Haiti and Indonesia to do projects of the same, or greater, magnitude.

Further Impact of Plastic Bank

Not only is this method far cheaper and more effective than government-run programs, but it is also teaching local communities who are often most directly affected by pollution, the importance of recycling and the proper way to go about it. In many countries like the Philippines or Haiti, survival trumps recycling etiquette, and therefore trash accumulates in the streets and waters. This contaminates the water sources, creating large numbers of people without access to clean drinking water. In Haiti, 75 percent of the population lacks access to this basic necessity.

Plastic Bank is transforming the way plastic is seen. The organization wants to help people realize the value of plastic and how we can use plastic for change. By educating individuals about the uses of plastic, they learn to view it as precious — a kind of currency almost.

Plastic Bank uses the recycled plastic to make what they dub, “social plastic,” plastic that other companies can use knowing they have helped people out of life in extreme poverty. Companies like Dell are using plastic in pellet form to make products such as computers and other electronics.

Going Above and Beyond

Other organizations have headed up similar efforts, including The Bounty Network, which recently completed a clean-up project in the Philippines, specifically in Manila Bay. Working with Filipino locals, the organization cleaned up nearly three tons of trash. Project participants were paid in both cryptocurrency and knowledge — having learned about the importance of caring for the earth.

This new trend of cleaning oceans by empowering disenfranchised people to make a difference is a win-win solution. With a steady income, people in countries like Haiti and the Philippines can overcome poverty, and with clean oceans, they can have safer, healthier environments that could even become good sources of food.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Wikimedia