"Plastic soup" sea pollution highlighted by Anna Rosbach

Environment - 19-03-2010 - 11:33
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Danish MEP Anna Rosbach of the Europe of freedom & democracy group. Seen here in her office in Strasbourg, 10 March.

Danish MEP Anna Rosbach of the Europe of freedom & democracy group. Seen here in her office in Strasbourg, 10 March.

Imagine a drifting mass of plastic and rubber 34 times the size of the Netherlands. In fact, it already exists in the Pacific Ocean and a recent Parliamentary report by Danish MEP Anna Rosbach (EFD) has thrown light on this disturbing and growing problem. On 11 March MEPs backed her report fighting pollution in the North East Atlantic. When she spoke to us she drew attention to the risks of the "plastic soup" phenomenon and the threats to the Baltic Sea region.

We began by asking why these issues are important to her.
You know, for me, water is the most important thing. Without water, there would be no life on earth. And if we pollute the water too much, we'll have serious problems.
Can you explain this "plastic soup"?
A huge amount of plastic soup is actually wearing Chinese and Japanese signs and letters. Unfortunately, a lot of these things come from Europe as well. We have plastic soup in the Atlantic Ocean, and we have plastic soup in the Pacific. It is growing extremely fast and deepening - the layers are getting thicker and thicker.
How big is it?
You cannot say it is one huge continent - they form islands and in the places they are found they are getting bigger.
You should start a new kind of industry retrieving the plastic! You cannot just take a normal fishing boat and say: "OK, I'll trawl around and just do some harvesting". This is because the plastic bottle for drinking water is made out of a totally different kind of plastic than a can of oil or the kind you have in your household.
It's a problem to be aware of and it is an industry and something you can make a living out of as a private person. The next step is to find supply companies who are able to turn this into a new beginning.
Presumably, this is also damaging fish?
It is - and ocean mammals, small whales, a lot of animals are actually drowning! And they say that even sharks are drowning because if a shark is stuck in a fishing net, for instance, it can't move. And if sharks cannot move, they cannot breathe.
It is insane that you find seals and dolphins and those kinds of animals with plastic toys inside them. It's very sad actually.
Are countries like China and the US aware of the problem?
I don't know the expression in English - something like "out of sight of mind".
And what about old fishing nets?
I heard about a Danish fisherman who was very annoyed about all the nets that he had left-over and didn't really know where to put them. He found a way to have them ripped up in tiny pieces so that they could be reused. They will be turned into new nets. And he patented it and started a huge industry - within a year he was a millionaire!
In our conversation Ms Rosbach also mentioned a report she is currently drafting on pollution in the Baltic.
Regarding pollution, if there is an agreement between Sweden and Finland and Denmark, you still have rivers running through Belarus and Russia directly into the Baltic Sea - and this area is so sensitive. It is an area where it's nearly impossible not to bring pollution into it. And you have the Finnish paper industry, which has been going on for more than 100 years. To make paper you need quite a lot of chemicals. It's the same in Sweden.
We asked her whether people should take responsibility.
If you start to be responsible yourself in your own family, that makes it so much easier than for a whole country. I think it's up to the one ship owner to say: "No, I'm not emptying my tank and cleaning it out in open sea because that will pollute the beaches where I, my wife and my children like to swim".
Anna Rosbach is a Member of the Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Her report is entitled: "Recommendation on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Additional Protocol to the Cooperation Agreement for the Protection of the Coasts and Waters of the North-East Atlantic against Pollution".
REF.: 20100305STO70033