Anna Simpson: Why single out marine waste as an urgent issue?
Alain Cadec: I am convinced that oceans are the new frontier for the 21st century. They offer a great opportunity for jobs and for economic growth. We must however not forget that they are also very fragile and that we have to protect them. Marine litter is a dangerous threat to the health of oceans. We therefore have to involve all the stakeholders of the maritime sector in waste management: business, fisherman, public authorities, NGOs, and so on.
AS: What needs to happen to better the situation?
AC: We first have to raise awareness about the threats of marine waste, which jeopardize all kinds of maritime activity. Secondly, we should develop a circular economy for recycling and promoting marine litter collected in the sea. For example, Waste Free Oceans has developed very concrete projects: marine waste is collected in the sea by fishermen, and then recycled by a dedicated industry. This allows the waste to be used again in a new production process. This is a virtuous circle.
AS: Why should fisherman take on this role of ocean stewardship?
AC: Fishermen are key stakeholders in the maritime sector and they are well-equipped to collect marine litter. Their involvement is a necessity. In France, we have created "blue contracts", which are partnerships between fishermen, NGOs and public authorities to collect marine litter. Fishermen receive public funding for this mission. At the EU level, the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF) can also grant subsidies for the same purpose.
AS: What difference will this make to the maritime sector?
AC: When we are talking about circular economy for marine litter, we are not only talking about environmental issues. There are strong industrial opportunities which can enable long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem of marine litter. There is a way to create growth and protect the environment at the same time. This industry needs the support of public authorities at all levels to develop.
AS: Are there implications for land-based industry also?
AC: Waste management is key in sustainable development. I hope that the COP21 in Paris this year will show concrete political support to this sector. We need to create momentum for a strong integrated waste management sector, from waste collection to production, through recycling.
Alain Cadec is a French politician, a Member of the European Parliament where he chairs the committee on fisheries, and champion of the Waste Free Oceans foundation. Anna Simpson is Curator, Futures Centre at Forum for the Future.