While the pandemic has caused untold devastation around the world, lockdown measures have brought some unexpected environmental benefits: Global emissions have plummeted and in some areas wildlife has flourished — even along some city streets.
But for oceans, it’s a different story.
Even before the pandemic, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that by 2050 there would be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Now, the sudden surge in single-use plastics — for personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, takeout food, home delivery packaging, and more — poses a renewed threat. In France alone, authorities ordered 3 billion disposable surgical masks, and advocates say the masks are beginning to wash up on beaches. “The numbers about the influx of plastic into the ocean are absolutely staggering,” says Julie Packard, executive director and co-founder of Monterey Bay Aquarium and daughter of Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard.
Packard recently participated in a virtual roundtable with other renowned marine conservationists led by HP Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer Ellen Jackowski to discuss the state of our ocean and why it’s more important than ever to care about its health.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that our very existence depends on the health of the ocean, which cover more than 70% of the planet,” Jackowski says. “It’s even more urgent now that the pandemic has led to this alarming surge in single-use plastics.”
The roundtable also included Dr. Jenna Jambeck, a National Geographic Fellow, University of Georgia professor, and author of groundbreaking research on ocean plastics, and Dune Ives, managing director of Lonely Whale, to discuss topics that ranged from renewed threats to ocean health, the innovations to combat those challenges, and what we can do — as individuals, companies, and communities — to help protect the world’s mightiest natural resource.