Microplastics: Tara Ocean Foundation calls on major Asian countries to stem the flux of plastics into the sea

© Samuel Bollendorff / Fondation Tara Océan

Press Release – July 1, 2019

8 million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the sea each year. To combat plastic pollution in the ocean, voluntary measures decided jointly by the G20 countries on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan, are a new and encouraging step hailed by the French Tara Ocean Foundation. At the same time, the Foundation’s research schooner Tara began a new mission to study the flow of plastic waste in European rivers. Our goal is to better understand the dispersion of microplastics at sea, their impact on biodiversity and their origin. During the Tara Mediterranean mission in 2014, the schooner Tara discovered the omnipresence of microplastic fragments (from 0.2 to 5 mm in diameter) in the Mediterranean.

Tara-biothermMicroplastic samples (<5 mm) collected at sea by Tara © Max Barel / Biotherm

Although the announced actions are still not very concrete, this is the first time that the Asian countries (major source of plastic pollution at sea before Europe) have a collective intention to tackle the colossal flow of plastic from industries and cities via Asian rivers,” notes André Abreu, director of international policies at the Tara Ocean Foundation. “In the current context, marked by recent refusals by China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia to import plastic waste, this is a strong political message. From now on, it’s essential that concrete actions follow.“ 

We are particularly pleased with Japan’s ocean-based plastic waste reduction program. Japan is the world’s second-largest producer of plastic waste per capita after the United States,” remarks Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Ocean Foundation.  “It’s crucial to stem the hemorrhaging of plastic into the sea by resolute actions on land. Japan’s goal of recycling 100% of new plastic by 2035 is a step in the right direction. It is urgent.

Focusing on Japan, in 2016 the Tara Ocean Foundation created an association to raise Japanese public awareness on major issues concerning the ocean (including plastic pollution), at the same time developing scientific partnerships with universities in Tsukuba, Tokyo and Kyoto. Our objective is to better understand the impact of man on marine biodiversity along the archipelago’s coasts. In collaboration with the Japanese Association for Marine Biology (JAMBIO) — a network of more than 20 marine stations affiliated with universities and established on all coasts of Japan — the Tara Ocean Japan Foundation is currently developing with its partners a Japanese project to sample and study the plastic pollution of Japanese coastal ecosystems.
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