18 Oct 2017 Press release Disasters & conflicts

Spain signs up to UN Clean Seas campaign

18 OCTOBER 2017, Alicante – The Government of Spain officially announced its support to the UN Clean Seas campaign today at the Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit being held in Alicante.

As the world’s 14th largest economy, Spain’s declaration of support is a significant boost to the UN’s global campaign, which now boasts 32 member states and aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals.

“Over the past six years we have been developing Spain’s new Marine Strategy, and one of its main goals is to tackle marine litter,” said Raquel Orts Nebot, Spain’s Director General for Coast and Sea Sustainability. “In this regard, I confirm that Spain is joining the UN CleanSeas Campaign, with the firm purpose of supporting this global initiative and contributing to its impact worldwide.”

“Spain's engagement in this campaign sends an important message across the Mediterranean region and the world,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim. “Our oceans are fundamental to our survival that we must do everything we can to protect them.”

Plastic has long been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems. It pollutes the environment; kills birds, fish and other animals that mistake plastic for food; damages tourist spots; and harms marine fisheries.

Plastic use, however, continues to grow. Up to 2015, mankind had produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic. Of this, 6.3 billion tons have already been discarded and some 8 million tons are dumped into our oceans every year.

Much of this waste is made up of disposable plastic, including cups, bags, straws, bottles and microplastics (tiny particles of plastic) from cosmetic products. At current rates, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

In the Mediterranean, researchers have recently highlighted a growing mass of plastic waste with similar concentrations to the infamous North Pacific Gyre.

The Clean Seas campaign asks the support of governments through the creation of effective national laws and encouragement for businesses and citizens to develop new and more sustainable patterns of production and consumption.

Major pledges from countries who have joined the campaign include Indonesia’s commitment to slash marine litter by 70%, Canada’s addition of microbeads to its list of toxic substances, and bans on microplastics in New Zealand, the UK and the US.

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, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Clean Seas

Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, UN Environment’s #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic reduction policies; targeting industry to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products; and calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to our seas.