SPEAKING at the ‘Circular Ocean’ project on waste, held in Cork County Hall last week, MEP Deirdre Clune said the ocean is extremely valuable and needs to be looked after.
She said: ‘Oceans make up 70% of our planet’s surface, yet we use it for less than 3% of our economic activity. By 2050 our planet will be home to 10 billion people who will turn to our oceans for food, energy and for jobs. We need to act wisely and not make the same mistakes we have made on land.’
Ms Clune said it must be recognised that too often the way plastics are currently produced, used and discarded, actually fail to capture the economic benefits of a circular approach and of course as we know, have a hugely detrimental effect on our environment. ‘It is the environmental problems that are causing us to shine a light on the production use and consumption of plastics,’ she said.
‘The millions of tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans every year are one of the most visible signs of the problem and is a cause of growing public concern.’
The MEP said that the EU is best-placed to deliver the change in our approach to plastics. Producers must be responsible and develop more sustainable materials. ‘The goal set by the Commission is all plastic to be recyclable by 2030 – today it stands at 30%.’
She added that global plastics production has increased 20 times since the 1960s and is expected to double in the next 20 years. She congratulated the Circular Ocean project, run by Macroom-E, for their very valuable research work on plastic litter in our oceans.
Circular Ocean project co-ordinator Julie Crowley said that over the three years of the project, it has motivated individuals and communities to rethink marine waste as a potential raw material. ‘Great synergies have been developed between the national and international organisations involved that will outlast the project and hopefully lead to improvements and change in how we think collectively about marine waste,’ she said.
Ms Crowley’s words were echoed by Ted O’Leary of Cork County Council: ‘The environment directorate of Cork County Council very much endorses and supports the aims of the Circular Ocean project.
‘The promotion of a sustainable circular economy in relation to marine waste is an objective very much in keeping with emerging international, EU and national waste management policy. Controlling marine waste is of necessity a priority for Cork County which with a coastline of 1,100km is the largest coastal county in the country.
‘We recognise that maintaining a pristine marine environment is essential, not just to the economy of Cork, but to the well-being of current and future generations. We will look to ensure that the lessons and recommendations of the project are supported across the many functions of the Council that have an impact on the marine environment,’ he said.