In just two hours on Saturday, 1,500 volunteers collected more than 600 kilograms of garbage along Copacabana Beach, Brazil’s most famous stretch of coastline.
The Copacabana clean-up was the first of some 120 actions across 16 Brazilian states that have been lined up for Brazil’s #CleanSeas week, promoted by UN Environment’s Brazil office. Key partners in the event included the Aqualung Institute and the Rio de Janeiro Scouts, who were charged with the task of collecting and cataloguing the rubbish as well as raising awareness to support public policies to fight marine litter.
Two new Brazilian CleanSeas advocates were officially designated at the clean-up: Environmental activist and entrepreneur Fe Cortez and sailor and businessman Vilfredo Schurmann. To Cortez, creator of the environmental education platform Menos 1 Lixo (One Less Trash), the amount of garbage collected demonstrates the urgent need to act.
“The involvement of so many people, of different ages and from different places, is very important in an action like this. They become multipliers of the message, and it causes a new relationship between the person and the beach”, she said.
© UN Environment
Vilfredo Schurmann, who represented the entire Schurmann family – the first Brazilian family to circumnavigate the world on a sailboat – was encouraged by the number of children attending the event. “These children are the ones who will carry on what happened here today”, he said.
Indeed, the Scouts left Copacabana with a new challenge: the CleanSeas + Menos 1 Lixo + Scouts of Brazil Challenge. Each Scout will choose one kind of disposable plastic – such as straws, cups or bags – and pledge to stop using it for ten weeks. Those who achieve the goal will be awarded the CleanSeas Badge, but the real objective is to promote long-term behaviour change in the use of disposable plastic.
The Senior UN Environment Programme Officer in Brazil, Regina Cavini, noted that CleanSeas is a global campaign that aims to influence not only consumers, but also policymakers and business leaders. She drew attention to an alarming fact: if we continue at the current rate of garbage production, by 2050 the amount of plastic in the oceans will be greater than the amount of fish.
“We want to mobilize the whole society, because it is society as a whole that promotes change. Let's bring visibility to the problem of plastic that hits the oceans and act to change this sad scenario”, Cavini said.
© UN Environment
In November, UN Environment will join Brazil’s Ministry of Environment in hosting the first National Seminar on Marine Litter, the first step in the elaboration of a national plan to combat the trash that ends up in the oceans.
Brazil’s #CleanSeasWeek runs until 24 September. To date, 120 groups in 16 Brazilian states have registered their clean-up actions, which will bring together more than 5,000 volunteers.
Pollution is the theme of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, which will take place in Nairobi from 4 to 6 December. Sign the pledge to help us #BeatPollution around the world. Together, we can clean up the planet.
To learn more, visit the CleanSeas website.