Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is a growing global problem and the Eastern Pacific is not an exception. On the contrary, the region is witnessing the impact of poor waste management on its rivers, coasts, and biodiversity, from which millions of people´s livelihoods depend. Fisheries and the tourism industry are the sectors most at risk.
Despite the scale of the problem, governments are lagging behind in offering solutions and supporting grass roots initiatives aiming to introduce greener practices. The lack of knowledge about the sources, drivers and environmental and social impacts of plastic waste also obscures the opportunities to produce positive social change.
As a result, offering viable and sustainable solutions while promoting greener practices and behaviour is in desperate need in the region.
Facing plastic pollution in the Eastern Pacific region requires innovation, a systematic approach, collaboration and social engagement. Given the complexity of the problem, the Pacific Plastic Science to Solutions alliance brings together scientists, governmental agencies, NGOs and community groups from across Europe and South America to design and pilot solutions based on understanding the causes and impacts, using cutting edge science, knowledge exchange, building capacity and citizen participation. Three main themes guide the implementation of the project, as described below.
This component aims to establish robust approaches to understanding and monitoring sources, distribution, and fate of plastic waste generation in the Eastern Pacific and exploring the behavioural and cultural drivers for plastic usage and disposal.
While the previous theme is focussed on the flows of plastic waste, this topic aims to establish a sound understanding of the ecological, socio-economic and health impacts of plastic waste across the region. These include: source to sink dynamics of plastic leakage, behavioural attitudes that contribute towards littering and their cultural and geographic variables, impacts to ecology, human health and wellbeing, ecosystem services and the technical, environmental and social innovations required to elicit change.
Seabird tangled in a fishing net. © Joana Alfaro
Based on the findings and learnings obtained by the research outlined in the previous stages, this theme will connect science with NGOs and the political and industrial sectors to build the evidence needed to drive change by designing and testing social, environmental and technical innovations to reduce plastic leakage into the environment and drive a sustainable plastics economy for the Eastern Pacific region.
Plastic clean up, Galapagos Islands. © Conservation International
Plastic clean up, Galapagos Islands. © Verónica Santamaría (Galapagos National Park)