28 May 2018 Press release Cities and lifestyles

‘Race Against Plastic’ in Lake Léman sends global message against plastic pollution


  • Plastic balloons slow down plastic-addicted countries in symbolic race at Olympic city
  • 5 500 kg of waste recovered within 15 metres from the shore around one of Europe’s largest lakes

27 May 2018 – Lausanne, Switzerland: Mass clean-ups and a symbolic swim have sent a message on the effects of plastic pollution from the Olympic city of Lausanne to the world.

At least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean each year, including from lakes and rivers. This affects our health and slows down our economies. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and is being ingested by birds and fish that are also part of our food chains. The fisheries and tourism sectors meanwhile lose billions in revenue each year due to marine litter.

To symbolise this drag on our quality of life, swimmers – including volunteers from UN Environment and the International Olympic Committee – held a race against plastic pollution in one of the largest lakes in Europe, Lake Léman. The swimmers dragged balloons symbolising the weight of plastic waste produced per person in different European countries, according to Eurostat.

The winning swimmer dragged the lightest balloon representing the 1.2 kg of plastic packaging consumed per person in Bulgaria each month on average – equivalent to 14kg per year.

Ireland crossed the finish line second, despite dragging a balloon representing 5 kg of plastic packaging consumption per month, or 60 kg a yearthe highest figure in the European Union.

There is a strong link between sport, health and environment. This event leverages the power of sport to raise awareness on how the plight of plastic pollution is holding us back, whether by harming marine life or affecting human well-being worldwide, said UN Environment’s Europe Office Director Jan Dusik. Have you ever realised how much plastic you consume every week? We hope our intrepid swimmers have made you reflect about your everyday choices”, he underlined.

Divers and dozens of volunteers meanwhile recovered and sorted 70 kg of plastic waste from the lake’s bed and shore in Lausanne. The waste included BBQs, mobile phones, a table and a large proportion of plastic. Around 5 500 kg of waste was recovered during a series of clean-ups organised by the NetLéman initiative. Some 110 tonnes of waste - ranging from fridges and bikes to plastics - have been collected and separated for recycling from Lake Léman since the first such clean-up was held in 2005.

After being launched in 2005, the Net'Léman initiative was organised by volunteers for seven editions. Since 2016, the event has been led by the Association for the Protection of Lake Léman, giving the clean-ups a new lease of life and providing a major contribution to the lake’s stewardship.

“It’s a wonderful experience to see hundreds of people of all ages come together to clean up this beautiful lake and restore the environment. It's real team work for the planet! At the same time, I wish that we would never have to organise another clean-up. It's up to all of us to achieve this,” said Amanda Melis, Coordinator of the Association for the Protection of Lake Léman and founder of Net’Léman.

The event was aligned with UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which works with governments, the general public, private sector and civil society to fight marine litter.


For photos of the event, click here: http://bit.do/ekyWy

About the Association for the Protection of Lake Léman

The Association for the Protection of Lake Léman (in French, “Association pour la Sauvegarde du Léman” or ASL) is a French-Swiss association. Its purpose is to preserve the water’s quality in the Lake of Geneva’s basin, i.e. rivers and waterways flowing into the lake. The ASL is a non-profit association and a recognized apolitical, scientific, public service with an actual community of 4,000 members. http://asleman.org/en/home/  http://www.netleman.ch/

About World Environment Day

#BeatPlasticPollution, the theme for #WorldEnvironmentDay2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The World Environment Day theme for 2018 invites us to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and health. Check out http://worldenvironmentday.global for more events.


About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world. UN Environment works closely in Switzerland with the Geneva Environment Network, which supported the event.

www.unenvironment.org  www.cleanseas.org  www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org

For more information, please contact:

Alejandro Laguna, Regional Information Officer for Europe, UN Environment, [email protected], +41 229178537

Mark Grassi, Information Assistant, UN Environment, [email protected] +41 788750086