In recognition of World Oceans Day and in line with this year’s theme — Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean— WBD understands the importance of promoting a healthy environment to achieve global prosperity and security. Covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is home to most of the earth’s biodiversity. The entire team at WBD is proud to support its client, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in its work to protect the ocean and the life that swims inside it.
“Mounting environmental challenges — from the climate crisis to air and ocean pollution to unprecedented biodiversity loss — pose an existential threat to humanity. These environmental challenges are already exacerbating poverty, hunger, and displacement and undermining decades of global progress. Urgent action is needed to reverse these trends and to capitalize on the opportunities that a healthier environment and a green economy present.”
USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, June 05, 2021
Tackling Plastic Pollution at USAID
However beautiful the oceans are, the truth of the matter is the seas are suffocating. Plastic, a material that can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose, is building up. Runaway fishing nets are ruthlessly catching unsuspecting marine life. Discarded litter is breaking down into grain-sized villains, called microplastics, that choke wildlife and ultimately wind up in the food chain.
USAID is leading a global effort to revitalize waste management and curb plastic pollution. According to the 2020 Save our Seas 2.0 Act, USAID has already committed to reducing plastic waste by supporting solid waste management by promoting the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle through their flagship program Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO). This program has four key components:
1. Incentivizing recycling, thereby reducing plastic waste.
2. Building waste management capacity and promoting a circular economy. This goal both reduces the total amount and promotes better disposal of waste.
3. Promoting innovation and investment in local business models, technology, and infrastructure. With a locally driven focus, this aims to empower communities and businesses in their effort to curb pollution.
4. Spurring social and behavioral change in support of the 3 R’s. Coupled with systematic change in the private and public sector, this final point helps promote positive individual choices.
Partnerships for Change
To support the battle against plastic pollution, USAID is partnering with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an international organization that brings together 45 leading companies from across the plastics value chain that have committed to investing $1.5 billion towards solutions to end plastic waste. USAID and the Alliance aim to use innovative, locally appropriate technologies, infrastructure, and business models to improve waste management and recycling.
USAID is also in partnership with Circulate Capital to spur private sector investment. With over 100 million dollars from many private businesses, this partnership is supporting waste management efforts in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. These investments go towards locally driven companies like Tridi Oasis, an Indonesia-based, women-owned recycling company.
Funding for Innovation
Plastic pollution, as with any modern challenge, calls for change, but societal and infrastructural change will only go so far. Therefore, USAID is undertaking a grants program to support action to curb plastic pollution. The first funding given through this program was in April of this year to Sri Lanka, totally $345,000.
“National and local coordination, enduring partnerships, community engagement, and localized solutions are key to reversing the impact of pollution and environmental degradation.”
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Alaine B. Teplitz, April 23, 2021
At the core of this program is promoting locally led solutions. This support promotes public and private action on plastic waste, spurring innovation and progress towards action. It empowers local actors to serve as leaders in the effort to tackle the obstacle of plastic waste by providing needed funding for new solutions and projects.
The challenge of plastic pollution requires major investment, innovation, and collaborative efforts to tackle. The revitalization of local waste management infrastructure is vital towards processing the growing amount of litter produced globally. USAID’s public-private approach towards promoting local development and action on plastic pollution will hopefully go a long way towards curbing the issue.
Here at WBD, we recognize the importance of World Oceans Day as a reminder that the oceans are the lungs of our planet. We believe in bringing more awareness to important issues such as plastic pollution by ensuring we continue to create force multiplying partnerships and solutions for the environment. In the case of plastic pollution, a globally prevalent challenge, partnerships and coalitions will be essential for successful solutions.
In celebration of World Ocean Day, WBD offers these ten interesting facts to inspire action to protect the oceans:
1. Over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihood.
2. The ocean contains 50-80 percent of all life on Earth.
3. Only one percent of the ocean is legally protected.
4. Harmful algae blooms are increasing; they can cause massive fish kills and contaminate seafood with toxins.
5. Oceans help in reducing climate change by storing large amounts of carbon dioxide. But increasing levels of dissolved carbon are making the seawater more acidic.
6. About 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the oceans.
7. The sea is home to the world’s largest living structure – the Great Barrier Reef. It is 2,600 km long and can seen from the Moon.
8. We have only explored about five percent of the world’s oceans and there are a lot more that needs to be discovered.
9. According to World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), there are currently at least 236,878 named marine species.
10. Ninety percent of all volcanic activity occurs in the oceans.
Author: Ben May is a Climate Resilience Summer Associate at WBD. He is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying international relations. Much of his work is focused around action on climate change, particularly on the global level.