07 DEC 2020 

Plastic waste floating in the world’s ocean has been ranked as one of the largest ecological problems as a menace to marine life as well as a danger to shipping. With the problem of ocean plastics expected to grow substantially in the coming years, the UK Chamber of Shipping has launched a new Single-Use Plastic Charter seeking to encourage companies to ban the use of non-essential single-use plastics by the end of 2021.

Research has found that 80 percent of plastic enters the marine environment from land-based sources, especially via rivers, according to the Chamber. They pointed out that through the IMO, MARPOL Annex V prohibits the discharge of garbage, including plastic, into the sea. While the shipping industry has, over the last few decades, been proactive in improving its environmental performance, the pointed out that it is estimated there are over 150 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans. Every year, one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic waste, yet the UK Government estimates that plastic in the sea is set to increase by threefold by 2025.

Companies that sign the new charter will aim to develop initiatives and replace nonessential single-use plastics as soon as possible, but no later than December 31, 2021. The Chamber says that those signing the new charter have pledged to go beyond both the IMO’s initiatives and the UK Government’s commitment to ban single-use plastics, which focuses on the exclusion of plastic straws, coffee/tea stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton swabs.

The Single-Use Plastic Charter also aims to help the industry be part of the circular economy, and where applicable create cultural change to both passengers and seafarers’ attitudes towards single-use plastic.

The Chamber has, with the help of several member companies, produced a guidance document entitled “Best Practice on Combating Single-Use Plastic in Shipping.” The guidance showcases several initiatives to replace the use of non-essential single-use plastic by more environmentally friendly solutions.

A total of 29 companies from across the maritime sector have already signed the charter. This includes shipping companies ranging from DFDS to Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries, Stena Line and from the cruise sector Carnival UK and MSC Cruises. It also includes towing and commercial shippers, ports and harbor commissions and other sectors of the shipping world.


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