In a first for Brazil and South America, the port city of Itajaí has provided a benchmark for other cities by committing to the United Nations Environment campaign to rid our oceans of plastic at an event in the Race Village.
Volnei Moratoni, the Mayor of Itajaí, in the state of Santa Catarina, signed up to the ambitious campaign, and laid out his ambitions to tackle the crisis affecting our seas. Globally, a truckload of plastic ends up in our seas every minute.
The mayor was inspired to sign up to the campaign after visiting New Zealand during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover. In Auckland, the New Zealand government signed up to the campaign.
So far over 70,000 individuals, 42 countries, a wide range of businesses and cities have also pledged to join the fight against marine plastic.
Mayor Moratoni said: “I am proud that Itajaí is the first city in Brazil to sign up to the United Nations Environment campaign and by doing so we aim to send the explicit message that it is essential that we take steps to tackle the plastic pollution problem.
“This is a fight all towns, cities and individuals need to join and we will introduce laws that enable us to reduce plastic pollution and encourage and equip business and individuals with the necessary tools to achieve our goals.
“This process was catalysed with the inspiration gained from visiting the Volvo Ocean Race in New Zealand and they played a crucial role in helping us develop a legacy future generations will be proud of.”
At the event, Mayor Moratoni signed up to the campaign with Fernanda Altoé Daltro, Head Campaigner for UN Environment in Brazil.
Johan Salén, Volvo Ocean Race Co-President, said: “For Itajaí to lead the way by becoming the first city in Brazil, and indeed South America, to join the United Nations-led CleanSeas campaign to address the impacts plastics are having on our oceans shows great leadership by the mayor and his office.
“By individuals, businesses, NGOs, governments and cities such as Itajaí, working together we can find innovative solutions to educate, innovate and leave a lasting legacy that will help address this plastic problem.”
Fernanda Altoé Daltro added: “The importance to have cities signing the campaign is that they are able to directly implement changes that could reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea.
“If it is a coastal city at the mouth of a river, such as Itajaí, the contribution to refrain from contributing to the tide of plastics can be even greater. I hope other cities are influenced by Itajaí and want to join the campaign.”
The announcement was made during a Future of the Oceans event in the Race Village to explore solutions to the plastic problem.
Silvia Mirpuri, from Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Programme Principle Partner, Mirpuri Foundation also spoke at the event. She talked about the work of the foundation, relationship with the Volvo Ocean Race and the many impacts plastic pollution can have.
Silvia Mirpuri, said: “For centuries, people have regarded the ocean as an inexhaustible, never ending source of food, and a convenient dumping ground, too vast to be affected by anything we do.
“We could not have been more wrong. In the space of just a few decades it has become increasingly clear that the ocean has limits and that in many important parts of our ocean the sustainability threshholds have already been breached.”
Brazil signed up the UN CleanSeas campaign in September 2017. The campaign is also being supported by race team Turn the Tide on Plastic. The Turn the Tide on Plastic boat is collecting information on salinity, dissolved CO2, algae and microplastic levels as they travel through some of the world’s remotest oceans as part of the Science Programme, supported by Volvo Cars.
The United Nations Environment launched the #CleanSeas campaign in February 2017 with the aim of encouraging governments, businesses and individuals to join the fight against marine plastic litter
Measures Itajaí is taking to reduce the city’s plastic footprint include developing legislation and an action plan to increase the amount of waste recycled in the city. Currently, only 3% of waste is recycled.
Waste from the Itajaí stopover is sent to a recycling centre to be sorted and sold by the COOPERFOZ cooperative. The cooperative employs 35 people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are paid a living wage and given opportunities to learn new skills. Currently, 135 tonnes of waste each month are recycled through the initiative.
Victor Silvestre, Itajaí city council’s environmental secretary, said: “We visited Auckland stopover to learn about best practice in recycling from the Volvo Ocean Race and Auckland City Council.
“After our visit, we were inspired to join the campaign and begin to develop a blueprint to tackle the problem of plastic being sent to landfill and entering the oceans through our network of rivers.“