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Norway announces $200 million boost to anti-ocean plastic efforts

A woman looks for valuables in a rubbish dump containing plastics pollution in Bamako on August 16, 2018.
A woman looks for valuables in a rubbish dump in Bamako on August 16, 2018. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

The Norwegian government has announced a commitment to spend $200 million over the next 4 years to combat the growing scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Why it matters: The commitment, unveiled at the Global Citizen Festival in New York, represents a significant ramp-up of efforts to prevent economic growth from irreparably harming sea life. It also shows momentum on a second major pillar of ocean policy, in addition to setting aside more ocean regions for conservation.

The background: The world's oceans are increasingly cluttered with plastic pollution from everything like plastic straws to water bottles and "ghostnets," which are fishing nets that have broken off their original lines.

  • The majority of all plastic produced is discarded or disposed of in natural environments, rather than being recycled.
  • Roughly 4.9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s hasn't been recycled or burned. And, plastic production is expected to double over the next two decades.
  • Norway is a major oil producer, including offshore oil production, and has a significant fisheries industry.
  • The Norwegian government views oceans' health as a strategic priority, according to Nikolai Astrup, Norway's minister of international development.

The commitment: According to Astrup, who previewed the announcement in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, two-thirds of Norway’s wealth creation comes from ocean-related activities, and the oceans will be an even more important food source worldwide as population growth continues. This is particularly the case in Asia and Africa, he said.

"'One of the main problems is the almost complete lack of waste management systems in developing countries.”
— Nikolai Astrup, Norwegian Minister of International Development

Go deeper: Plastic straws play only minor role in global plastics pollution