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UN Environment Programme Chief congratulates Plastiki crew on boat's arrival in Australia

Sydney/Nairobi, 26 July 2010 - I would like to express my admiration and communicate my congratulations to David de Rothschild and the courageous crew of Plastiki for their epic, around 8,000 nautical mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

David, you and your shipmates have achieved not only a journey but a milestone in terms of raising global awareness of human-kind's increasingly serious impact on the marine environment.

Through the novel and inspiring design of Plastiki-with its innovative use of recycled materials- to the informative, daily blogs and tremendous media coverage, you have engaged the heads but also the hearts of millions upon millions of people.

The message- indeed the multiple metaphorical messages contained in the 12, 500 plastic bottles used as buoyancy- is simple.

If collectively we carry on using the seas and oceans as a dustbin, human-beings will soon have turned the once beautiful and bountiful marine environment from a crucial life-support system into a lifeless one.

UNEP has, at the requests of governments, been chronicling and compiling accelerating change and degradation.

  • More than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are now floating on every square kilometre of the world's oceans

  • Some 8 million items of marine litter are thought to enter the oceans and seas every day, about 5 million (63 percent) of which are solid waste thrown overboard or lost from ships

  • 100,000 turtles and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals, are killed by plastic marine litter every year around the world

  • Over two billion tones of wastewater, a cocktail of sewage, heavy metals, fertilizer, pesticides and other pollutants, are discharged into rivers, estuaries and coastal waters annually

  • An estimated 200 temporary or permanent de-oxygenated 'dead zones' now exist in the world's seas and oceans as a result

  • Three quarters of marine fisheries are exploited up to, or beyond their maximum capacity

  • About one fifth of all coastal mangroves-natural sea defenses and fish nurseries-have been lost since the 1980s

  • Climate change is beginning to acidify the seas with real threats to shellfisheries, coral reefs and the food chain

However, UNEP's role is to also spotlight and suggest actions and policies that can turn this particular ship around.

It is certainly not all doom and gloom-some countries and regions are starting to respond with more intelligent management including factoring in the true costs of the damage and real value of these natural and nature-based assets.

The challenge and the opportunity is to now accelerate these responses in terms of speed and scale- from phasing down and phasing out the perverse subsidies that fuel over-fishing to introducing smart market mechanisms that favour recycling of materials over dumping.

Human beings evolved from the marine environment: It is high time we evolved a different attitude to where we came from.

Getting rid of our wastes by pouring and pumping them into the sea may benefit the pockets of some, but will ultimately impoverish us all.

If society can begin to turn the tide in 2010 and beyond, then I am sure that David and the Plastiki crew will have played their part in helping humanity to chart a new and transformational course towards the low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy so urgently needed.

And which is so self-evidently possible in a 21st century world with all the scientific; technological; financial and above all-as Plastiki has shown-the human resources and creativity needed to catalyze sustainability across the seas but also the land and indeed the air.

Plastiki crew on arrival in Sydney



Further Resources

UNEP: Plastiki webpage

Press Release: Plastiki arrives in Sydney

UNEP reports on marine litter

Video of the link-up between David de Rothschild and UNEP Executive Director

Plastiki official website


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