Plastic Fantastic: A COVID-Safe Global Clean-up

World Maritime University (WMU) students took part in a global clean-up effort as part of their Foundation Term studies focused on Marine Litter. Well over 80% of the students in the Class of 2021 have been able to travel to Malmö for their MSc studies. Regardless of their location, on or before 8 December, they all contributed to the clean-up effort. 

Observing social distancing protocols in their respective countries, the students took 30 minutes to collect, and dispose of, rubbish collected in the location of their choice. Aside from the students located in Malmö, remote students organised clean-ups locally in their own countries, including Colombia, Fiji, Iraq, Peru, Russia, Sri-Lanka, Tanzania and Vanuatu. Collectively, 218kg of rubbish was removed by the WMU student teams.

Through the clean-up exercise and associated lecture, the students learned about sources of marine debris, including macro and microplastics, and management responses. The class discussed integrated approaches and policies including grassroots activities and the role of industry which might eventually be implemented in their home countries. They also learned about the role of individuals, society and government in keeping the environment clean. Discussions included how long it takes to break down litter in marine environments  and monitoring of marine litter. The complex impacts of the waste in the ocean was also discussed and the students learned about the many potential sources and current knowledge gaps. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 14 focuses on Life Below Water and addresses reducing marine pollution in Target 14.1: “By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.”

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