The statistics around waste and plastic that enter our oceans each and every year is both astounding and sobering. Up to 15 million tons of plastic make its way into the ocean every year. It's estimated that over 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already in our oceans, and by 2050, if we don't do something to curb our worldwide addiction to plastic, it's thought that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
This is beyond devastating. Most people know that plastics don’t break down in nature - they stick around for hundreds of years, breaking down into smaller pieces, but never really disappearing, instead transforming themselves into microplastics. They are often ingested by animals that call the ocean home - everything from fish and whales to turtles and birds. We know that the effect on wildlife can be severe - microplastics diminish the urge to eat, alter feeding behaviour, and reduce growth and reproductive effectiveness. Some animals will die, due to their stomachs being full of plastic.
As the world enters a "extinction event" unlike any it has seen in the past, with up to 1 million species facing threats, ocean plastics are contributing to this disaster at an unprecedented scale.
Humans, and the communities that rely on the ocean and coastal area's for their livelihoods, are also impacted. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that microplastics are having an adverse affect on human health, and that the entire life-cycle of plastic - from production to "end of life" - is impacting us.
Communities that rely on the ocean are facing massive effects as well. Take a walk along a beach in Bali, throughout Jakarta or next to Manila Bay, and you'll see immense amounts of plastic waste washing up on shorelines. The impact is diverse - communities find it harder and harder to maintain businesses, especially in tourism-driven locations such as Bali. Many local tourism operators in Denpasar have taken it upon themselves to clean up Bali's beaches early in the morning, just so they can get by and provide for their families and communities. While such efforts are great, they are not a sustainable response to the challenge that plastic waste presents.
The Ursus Project
The Ursus Project is our response to this massive problem. We know that the law and policies around single-use plastics has to change if the world is going to fix this problem. We hope to do that in the following ways
Shine a light on the ways in which grassroots organisations, small enterprises and others are responding to this challenge across the Asia-Pacific.
Encourage decision-makers to implement laws and regulations which ban single-use plastics wherever possible, and introduce better waste-management policies by 2025.
Provide you with ways to get involved, from physical events around the region, to actions you can take right at home.
We will partner with organisations around the Asia-Pacific in bringing you this project, and you'll see content from these partners very soon.
In early 2020, we'll be launching a project across Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand which is aimed at introducing single-use plastic bans across the region. We're excited for this project, and can't wait to share more with you soon.
In the meantime, check out what's happening with the Ursus Project here.
The Ursus Project is named in memory of Peter "Bear" Best, whose passion for the ocean, especially in and around the Great Barrier Reef and Northern Queensland, Australia, inspired this project. The project's logo, a bear claw with a turtle, symbolises the constant need to look over and protect our oceans and the biodiversity within.