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Each year, Earth Day acts as a reminder of the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability, encouraging us to come together and take action for the planet. For the 2024 Earth Day, taking place today, the theme is ‘Planet vs Plastics.’ Oxford University researchers comment on the global plastic waste crisis, and the opportunities and challenges in moving to a sustainable plastics economy.

Volunteers cleaning up the Aldabra beach. Photo credit: Seychelles Islands Foundation © Seychelles Islands Foundation

Dr April Burt, Department of Biology, University of Oxford, and Seychelles Islands Foundation, said:

“The global plastics treaty gives us the opportunity to turn the tide on plastic pollution, from policy on the manufacture of plastics, to retailer responsibilities, and dealing with legacy plastics. Our work in Seychelles highlights the vast accumulation of marine plastic pollution bombarding the islands from both at-sea and international sources. This down-stream accumulation is taking its toll at both local and national level and cannot be ignored, especially in light of the accumulating evidence of the detrimental effects of plastic, microplastics, and plastic leachate on species and ecosystems.”

It is vital to ensure representatives from countries like Seychelles have a voice at these negotiations to communicate the eye-watering price tag of legacy plastics on their island ecosystems, both economically and ecologically, especially considering the transboundary nature of the marine plastic litter problem and the transboundary nature of the ecosystem services provided by biodiversity-rich islands.”

Read other Oxford researchers' comments on Earth Day 2024.