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REDUCING PLASTIC POLLUTION IN OUR SEAS

Recently, I participated in a Westminster debate on reducing oceanic plastic pollution; an increasingly important and dangerous global problem deeply damaging to marine life and habitats.


North Ayrshire has one of Britain’s finest coastlines. However, strolling along one of Ayrshire’s many beaches, or in fact any UK beach, you will see plastic.


Globally, there is an estimated 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic waste in our oceans, with a further 16.5 million tonnes entering the marine environment every single year.


Millions of marine animals, including sea turtles, dolphins and seabirds die each year as a direct result of ingesting plastic debris. Plastic has now entered the marine and human food chain, posing a danger to the health of both.


Thanks to the dedication of volunteers, scientists and David Attenborough, we have developed our understanding of how damaging plastic is to wildlife, sensitive ecosystems and people, recognising that action is needed to prevent irreversible damage to the marine environment.


Numerous initiatives are now in place to curb ocean plastic pollution, from international agreements to grassroots beach clean-ups such as those undertaken by ThreeTowns Clean Up Crew who voluntarily pick up beach litter.


The SNP Scottish Government aims to make Scotland a zero-waste society with a circular/recycling economy target of recycling 70% of waste by 2025. This exceeds European Union (EU) targets, with a commitment to matching the EU target for plastic packaging to be economically recyclable or reusable by 2030.


Furthermore, Scottish Ministers have already banned personal hygiene products containing plastic microbeads and plastic stemmed cotton buds and will soon ban single-use plastic cutlery. The SNP Government is also a signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment which will ban specific single use plastic items in EU states, even though Scotland is no longer in the EU.


As MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, I’ve met with businesses and organisations who are reducing plastic pollution to improve the local marine environment.


A few weeks ago, I met the Arran Coast, Community of Arran Seabed Trust to celebrate the launch of their RV Coast Explorer vessel, which will facilitate marine scientific research and allow Isle of Arran to realise its marine conservation potential while raising the island’s profile as a destination for marine environmental education, knowledge exchange and eco-tourism.


COAST is community-led and has made a huge difference to marine restoration around Arran and the Clyde over decades. Thanks to their hard work and that of the TAP: Think About Plastic - Arran, the island was the first community in Scotland to be awarded the Plastic-Free Community award from conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage, with island organisations and businesses creating a five-point plan to minimise disposable plastics.


Scotland is leading the way in preventing plastics from entering our oceans in contrast to a UK Tory Government that continues to dither and pontificate over a ban on wet wipes containing plastic and accepts funding from individuals and entities linked to climate denial and high-polluting industries.


I’m proud of Scotland’s progress and commitment to curb plastic use and protect our precious environment and look forward to further improvements.


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