Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: Spotlight on marine debris ahead of Ocean Conference

On 30 May 2017, Ciné-ONU, one of UNRIC’s most successful outreach projects, screened the documentary 'A Plastic Ocean' to full houses in both Brussels and Helsinki ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference and World Environment Day.

A Plastic Ocean Twitter Slide

A Plastic Ocean is a feature-length documentary that brings to light the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle. Directed by Australian journalist Craig Leeson and produced by Jo Ruxton, who has previously worked on the Blue Planet series, the film dives into and investigates the devastating impact plastic has on our environment, especially on our marine life.

Brussels Buzz

Before the start of the film, Ulf Björnholm (Head of UNEP Brussels) introduced a short video in which Members of the European Parliament shared their favourite places to connect with nature (in honour of this year's World Environment Day theme - connecting people to nature).

Following the film, the much-anticipated panel discussion was both insightful and thought-provoking. The discussion was moderated by Deborah Seward (Director of UNRIC Brussels) and the panel was made up of four speakers: Jo Ruxton (Producer of ‘A Plastic Ocean and Co-Founder of Plastic Oceans Foundation); Maria Westerbos (Founder of Plastic Soup Foundation); Kristian G. Moore (Environment, Science & Technology Officer, U.S. Department of State), and Matjaž Malgaj (Head of Unit for the Marine Environment and Water Industries, European Commission).

Panel discussion in progress

All panellists agreed that drastic action is needed, and needed now, in order to save our seas and oceans from further damage, and to free our marine life of the suffering it currently endures. Jo Ruxton warned that if we don't stop using and throwing away plastics as recklessly as we do now, "it will only get worse". Maria Westerbos added that we throw away plastic bottles about 20 minutes after buying them, and urged everyone to change this: "Let's stop the use of single-use plastic - let's not use it anymore".

Matjaž Malgaj discussed how the economic system regarding plastic needs to be reconsidered: "Until plastic is so cheap that you can throw it away easily, there will always be people who will throw it away". Kristian G. Moore was optimistic: "Everybody is talking about [this issue] and that's a huge step forward, but now we need to find out how to address it". 

Question from audience in Brussels

Audience members wanted to know what they could do to help. Whilst all panellists shared practical tips, such as drinking tap water and avoiding single-use plastics, Jo Ruxton encouraged the audience to spread the word about the dangers of plastics: "If everyone here tells just five people, that's how we'll get the word out". 

Innovations highlighted in Helsinki

In the Finnish capital, tips and best practices were shared as the audience fired off their questions during the debate, moderated by Petra Hongell from UNRIC’s Nordic Desk, who herself had just started a zero-waste month.

“It all comes down to changing our ways of thinking”, said Peter Ceglinski, CEO & Co-Founder of the Seabin project and one of the panellists. A captivated audience listened as he explained the functioning of the Seabin, a floating rubbish can that collects plastics and other unwanted materials from the water. “We are delighted to have received an invitation to join the Ocean Conference in New York. The pilot project in Helsinki is only a first step”, he added.

“Innovations, partnerships and cooperation is truly what is needed if we are to turn the tide on marine pollution”, stressed Maria Laamanen, Deputy Chairperson for the Finnish delegation to the Ocean Conference and a Marine Expert at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. “This documentary really captured the essence of it – and makes you even more motivated to act. Action is needed both on an individual as well as on a policy level. We all bear a shared responsibility for our oceans”.

Want to know more about A Plastic Ocean? Click here

Find out more about the Ocean Conference here.

Take a look at our handout from the Brussels event.

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