Coastal communities dumping 8m tonnes of plastic in oceans every year


Coastal populations put about 8m tonnes of plastic rubbish into the oceans in 2010, an annual figure that could double over the next decade without major improvements in waste management efforts, scientists warn.

The mountain of plastic litter, including bags, food packaging and toys, was equivalent to five full shopping bags of debris for every foot of coastline bordering nearly 200 countries the team studied.

Though researchers have known about plastic waste in the oceans for 40 years, the latest report, published in the journal Science, is the first to attempt a detailed estimate of how much plastic made on the planet finds its way into the oceans.

The figures suggest that about 10 to 30 times more plastic debris ends up in the oceans than surveys have found floating about on the surface. In one recent survey, an international team reported more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes.

In the latest study, researchers at the University of Georgia and the Sea Education Association in Massachusetts calculated the amount of waste plastic generated in 192 countries with coastlines on the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and Black seas. From data on regional manufacturing and waste management practices, they worked out that 4.8m to 12.7m tonnes of plastic rubbish wound up as ocean debris in 2010.

“This input of plastic waste to the oceans is several orders of magnitude more than we can see, which means there’s a lot of plastic out there that we are not finding,” said Jenna Jambeck, the first author of the study at the University of Georgia.

Some countries still dump plastic litter into watercourses that carry the material out to sea. But much of the plastic made on land becomes marine debris because it is not properly disposed of in landfills or at recycling plants. Left in piles in coastal areas, the waste can easily blow into waterways or be carried out to sea by flood water.

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Once plastic reaches the oceans it forms floating waste, washes up on coastlines, and accumulates on sea floors. Larger items like bags, wrapping and fishing gear can entangle dolphins, turtles and even whales. Small pieces are eaten by fish, turtles and seabirds. Over time, the material weathers down into tiny particles that can be ingested even by small marine animals. The pollution is extremely difficult to remove from the environment or trace back to its source.

In the study, Jambeck and her colleagues ranked the 20 countries responsible for the most waste plastic ending up in the oceans. The greatest sources were not only the major plastic producers, but generally those nations with the worst waste management practices.

China topped the table with 1.32 to 3.53m tonnes of plastic reaching the oceans in 2010. Indonesia followed, where 83% of waste was mismanaged, added 0.48 to 1.29m tonnes of marine plastic to the seas that year. The US ranked 20th, where only 2% of waste was badly handled, and 0.04 to 0.11m tonnes of plastic found its way to the ocean. Sixteen of the top 20 polluters are middle income countries where fast economic growth is not accompanied by major improvements in waste handling.

A man walks beside the scattered plastic trash brought in by strong waves at Kuta Beach on January 17, 2014 in Kuta, Indonesia. The sight of trash washed up on Kuta beach has become an annual phenomenon as piles of debris are carried to the beach by strong currents during the winter months. Kuta Beach is one of Bali’s top tourist destinations, however during the winter months waste materials are swept up onto the beaches in Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Kuta beach, Indonesia, strewn with plastic litter. Up to 83% of waste is mismanaged in the country. Photograph: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images
According to the report, the cumulative amount of plastic in the seas will soar tenfold by 2025 if nothing is done to slash waste generation or manage it more effectively. The current annual rate of 8m tonnes put into the oceans could also double by 2025 without action.

If changes are made, they could have a huge impact, the scientists claim. Reducing mismanaged plastic waste by 50% in the top 20 ranked countries would cut the pile of plastic likely to end up in the oceans by 41% in 2025. More stringent caps on plastic in waste streams, and better disposal in the top ten-ranked countries could reduce the amount of new marine plastic to 2.4 to 6.4m tonnes annually by 2025.

Though the greatest gains would come from better waste processing in regions where waste management is the poorest, Jambeck stressed that substantial improvements were possible even in countries with effective waste disposal. “It’s not just about improving the infrastructure in other countries.” she said. “There are things we can do in our daily lives to reduce the amount of waste plastic we all produce.”

In December, a team led by Lucy Woodall at the Natural History Museum in London, found “microplastic” debris had accumulated in deep sea sediments, with some as deep as 3000m.

“Marine litter appears to be a much more serious phenomenon than previously thought with studies from the last six months suggesting this pollutant is all pervasive in our oceans and is present in much larger quantities than previously thought,” Woodall said.

Microplastic deposits found deep in world’s oceans and seas
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“The world’s oceans cover such a large surface area and by nature are remote from much of human habitation, therefore it is unsurprising that every new study adds to our understanding how serious this issue is. This environmental challenge is one entirely of human making, but we can all help by starting to value, reduce, recycle and reuse plastic products.”

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Femicide: 50% of male-murdered UK women killed by partner or ex, says study


Nearly half of British women killed by men between 2009 and 2013 died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners, a new report has shown, adding further pressure on the government to provide more security for vulnerable women.

The ‘Femicide Census’ which analyses data from official government statistics, found that out of 694 women, around 46 percent had been killed by their husbands, boyfriends or exes, often with knives or other sharp instruments.

The research also found around 6 percent of women who had been killed were murdered by their sons.

Additionally, 3 percent were killed by a member of their extended family – roughly the same percentage as those killed in burglary attacks.

“On average two women per week are killed by a partner or ex-partner,” Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told the Telegraph

“We need to know what happened to these women before their deaths – for example if there were previous reports of domestic violence, if they have had previous contact with the police or other agencies, but the warning signs were not picked up on.”

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Neate added that the census was required to identify “common themes” and to help “reduce deaths by working with relevant agencies and professionals to better protect women.”

The report follows research by YouthSight which shows more than a third of female students in UK universities admitted to have been subject to sexual abuse and harassment.

According to the report, 34 percent of female students had been victims of sexual assault and abuse, while 31 percent said they had been ‘groped’ while out in public.

Some 20 percent also said they had been coerced, or pressured into situations involving emotional and physical abuse.

“I started counting dead women back in January 2012, when in the first three days of the year, eight women were killed by men in the UK alone,” said Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of the women’s aid charity Nia.

“If we don’t name men’s fatal violence against women and don’t reveal its extent and the various forms it can take, we will never be capable of a thorough enough analysis to reduce or end it.”

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In 2011, the Global Study on Homicide found there had been a disproportionate increase in the number of femicides around the world, despite the overall number of homicides falling.

“If the bigger picture is revealed, people can begin to see the connections across the spectrum of men’s violence against women,” Ingala Smith added.

Miliband claims victory after Fink drops threat to sue over tax avoidance claim


Ed Miliband claimed a partial victory in the battle over Britain’s wealthy tax avoiders after former Conservative party treasurer Lord Fink abandoned his threat to sue if Miliband repeated a claim that he avoided tax.

Lord Fink, who had demanded an apology on Wednesday when Miliband first made the allegation in the Commons, admitted yesterday he had been involved in “vanilla” tax avoidance measures including transferring shares he held into family trusts in Switzerland.

Fink added “everybody does tax avoidance”, telling the Evening Standard: “The expression tax avoidance is so wide that everyone does tax avoidance at some level. I didn’t object to his use of the word ‘tax avoidance’. Because you are right: tax avoidance, everyone does it.”

Fink added that he rejected expert advice that he could save a fortune in tax by adopting more “aggressive” measures. “What I did was at the vanilla, bland, end of the spectrum.”

He said he “used the opportunity … to set up some simple family trusts” while on a four-year posting to Switzerland and had transferred some shares to his children and his wife. “My family and I paid tax on all the dividends, both in Switzerland and the UK. They were done because my children were under 18 and I wanted them to have something to help them make their way in the wider world.”

Fink’s morning retreat allowed an emboldened Miliband, speaking about education at Haverstock School in north London on Thursday, to say: “Yesterday a Conservative donor challenged me to stand by what I said in the House of Commons. I do.”

Miliband said: “I think that this is a defining moment in David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservatives because it is now revealed that he appointed a treasurer for his party that boasts about engaging in tax avoidance and thinks it is something that everyone does.

“I don’t think that is the view of most people, and of the country. I think it does say something about the Conservative party so the question for today is does David Cameron agree with Lord Fink and does he sanction his attitude?”

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After Miliband spoke, and in a sign that the Tories wanted to cool the controversy, Fink made no further threat to sue Miliband. Instead he said, in a statement released on his behalf by the Conservative party, that it had been the Labour leader who had backed down by denying he had ever intended to imply he was a dodgy donor, a phrase used by Miliband under privilege in the Commons.

In the statement, Fink said: “Yesterday I challenged Ed Miliband to repeat the accusations he made in the Commons that I used an HSBC bank account to avoid tax and that I was a ‘dodgy’ donor. He did not.

“This is a major climbdown by a man who is willing to smear without getting his facts straight.”

But in Fink’s original letter on Wednesday, in which he demanded an apology from Miliband, the peer made no objection to the phrase ‘dodgy donor’, providing some cover for claims made by Labour aides that he had not retreated.

Miliband said he had not been referring to Fink as a dodgy donor, adding: “The thing he, Fink, objected to – until his extraordinary U-turn 24 hours later – was me saying that he was engaged in tax-avoiding activities.”

He said that he had made “a general comment about dodgy donors in the Conservative party and I totally stand by that comment”.

The Labour leader was also forced to defend his own tax arrangements after it emerged he had used a deed of variation, a tax efficient arrangement that allowed him and his brother, David, to take a share of their family home in Primrose Hill, north London after his father’s death in 1994.

He said: “This is something my mother did 20 years ago – a decision she made. I paid tax as a result on that transaction and I have avoided no tax. No doubt the Conservative party wants to smear mud but frankly it is not going to work. The story has been written before and I paid tax on that money.”

On a day that probably went better for Miliband than had at first seemed likely, the Conservatives tried to hit back by claiming a Labour aide had likened the battle over HSBC to the “Milly Dowler moment,” a phrase first mentioned by BBC political editor Nick Robinson in a blog.

However, later Robinson said that had been his phrase, not that of a Labour aide. A Labour official said the aide had argued that phone hacking and the treatment of Milly Dowler had been a moment that had crystallised people’s attitude to some newspaper reporting, and the HSBC scandal was having the same effect on tax avoidance.

Evan Harris, associate editor of Hacked Off, said: “There is nothing to criticise about politicians, their aides or journalists comparing a scandal of endemic tax avoidance – that they and the country feel strongly about – with the historic break that all party leaders claimed to have made from inappropriate and corrupting relationships with powerful newspaper editors and owners after the Milly Dowler hacking came to light.”

Cameron’s hope that the wider HSBC scandal will dissipate were also dealt another blow when the Treasury select committee said they would be calling both HMRC and HSBC officials to give evidence.