ARU academic makes key contribution to new UN report

plastic pollution_ bottles on a beach

A new United Nations Environment Programme report on marine litter, co-authored by an Anglia Ruskin University ecologist, has revealed that plastics have now contaminated every ecosystem on the planet ​and that if we continue with a “business as usual” scenario, emissions of plastic litter into aquatic ecosystems will triple by 2040.

Associate Professor at ARU, Dr Dannielle Green, was one of the lead authors on the report From Pollution to Solution: A global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution, collating evidence of the impact of pollution and litter on ecosystems and on the people who rely on them.

The evidence shows that plastic litter is contaminating every ecosystem on the planet, causing ecological, social and economic impacts across the globe. Dr Green’s recent work has focused on microplastics in marine environments, and their effects on key species, as well as the impact of discarded cigarette butts, which are the most littered item on the planet and contain a filter made from cellulose acetate.

The report calls for the immediate reduction of plastic use, action to increase consumer awareness, and investment in more robust and effective monitoring systems to identify the sources, scale and fate of plastic. It also notes that it is impossible to recycle a way out of the crisis.

Dr Green, who is one of the lead authors of the UN report, said: “Many biodegradable and compostable plastics do not quickly break down in the natural environment and, as litter, they can have the same negative biological and ecological impacts as other plastics. We need to improve labelling and public awareness of how to responsibly dispose of these.

“There is not a one-size fits all solution, but moving towards a more circular economy, reducing the use of single use plastics where possible and redesigning them for more efficient recycling are good starting points. Citizen science has also been important in understanding the extent and spread of plastic litter and, as citizens and consumers of plastic, we have the power to make a difference through our individual actions.”

Read the full report 



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