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Oceana Calls on Governments to Address Plastic Pollution at 8th Annual Our Ocean Conference in Panamá

Panamanian celebrity Ingrid de Ycaza joins Oceana to urge action to protect and restore the world’s oceans

Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá – WEBWIRE

Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation, is calling on governments to address plastic pollution at the 8th annual Our Ocean conference in Panama City, Panamá. The conference, taking place March 2-3, brings together leaders from around the world to deliver concrete and actionable commitments to help protect and restore the world’s oceans. 

Since 2014, the Our Ocean conference has generated more than 1,800 commitments worth over $108 billion and protected more than 5 million square miles of ocean. As a tropical nation brimming with biodiversity along both its coasts, Oceana says Panamá is the perfect host for this year’s conference.

“When Oceana told me that about two garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the ocean every minute, I felt a responsibility to get involved,” says Ingrid de Ycaza, singer, actress, and friend of Oceana. “Our beaches, in addition to being one of our most beautiful attributes as a country, are our life. Panama is known for its beautiful beaches, its exuberant natural beauty, and its water activities. But, like many Panamanians, I have seen the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans. The beaches I used to visit as a child have changed; where I used to collect shells in the sand, and now I pick up trash and plastic with my children. More needs to be done before it’s too late.” 

In recent years, Panama has been a leader in ocean conservation. Panama was the first Central America nation to ban plastic bags, and since then has banned other disposable plastic items. Panama was also one of the first nations in the world to commit to protect at least 30% of its ocean.

“Plastics are one of the greatest threats facing our oceans today and Panama should be applauded for taking important steps to stop plastic pollution at the source,” says Andrew Sharpless, Chief Executive Officer at Oceana. “With 33 billion pounds of plastic waste flooding into our oceans each year, and plastic production expected to triple in the next 30 years, the time to act is now. The most logical place to start is with unnecessary single-use plastics and packaging, which make up nearly 40% of the plastic produced annually. Corporate polluters like Coca-Cola and Amazon must reduce the amount of single-use plastic they are using and provide customers with plastic-free choices. Until they do, it’s up to governments to create policies to reduce plastic pollution.”

When plastics end up in the ocean, they just break up into smaller and smaller pieces that are swallowed by everything from fish and sea turtles to seals and seabirds, many of which are endangered. In the U.S. alone, Oceana found evidence of 1,792 marine mammals and sea turtles from 40 different species swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic between 2009 and 2020.

Today, plastic is found in our food, our water, and even our air. Oceana says recycling efforts alone are not enough to stop plastic pollution. In fact, only 9% of all the plastic waste ever generated has been recycled.

“Plastics have a profound design flaw: why use a product made to last forever to make products that are used once, often for just a few moments, before being thrown away,” asks Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer at Oceana. But pollution isn’t the only concern when it comes to plastics, Savitz says. “Plastics are contributing to climate change at every stage of their life cycle. Plastics contain toxic chemicals that are bad for our health. The only way to end the plastics crisis is to stop plastic pollution at the source. Think about it like this: When your bathtub is overflowing, you don’t run for a mop before you turn off the faucet. Recycling is the mop. We need to turn off the faucet.”

Oceana noted that several governments have already created policies to reduce the production and sale of unnecessary single-use plastics, including Canada, Chile, the European Union, and the U.S. state of California. Following campaigning by Oceana and its allies, the Coca-Cola Company has also committed to sell 25% of its products in reusable packaging by 2030, which could prevent 1 billion single-use plastic bottles from entering the ocean every year.

Oceana is calling on Panama and other nations to take further actions to address the growing plastics crisis by making renewed commitments at the Our Ocean conference in Panama this week.

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