Foto Credit: British Antarctic Survey

Fertilizer and plastic pollution are main emerging issues in 2011 UNEP

Nairobi, 17 February 2011 Massive amounts of phosphorus—a valuable fertilizer needed to feed a growing global population—are being lost to the oceans as result of inefficiencies in farming and a failure to recycle wastewater.

Phosphorus pollution, along with other uncontrolled discharges, such as nitrogen and sewage, are linked with a rise in algal blooms which in turn harm water quality, poison fish stocks and undermine coastal tourism.

In the United States alone, the costs are estimated to be running at over US$2 billion a year, indicating that globally and annually the damage may run into the tens of billion of dollars.

At the same time there is also growing concern over the impact of billions of pieces of plastic, both large and small, on the health of the global marine environment.

New research suggests that the plastic broken down in the oceans into small fragments —alongside pellets discharged by industry—may absorb a range of toxic chemicals linked to cancer and impacts the reproductive processes of humans and wildlife.

Experts say both phosphorus discharges and new concerns over plastics underline the need for better management of the world’s wastes and improved patterns of consumption and production.

The two issues are spotlighted as among key issues —deemed persistent, re-emerging or newly emerging— in the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Year Book 2011 which is being presented today in advance of the annual gathering of the world’s environment ministers opening on 21 February.


The Year Book calls for better enforcement of such rules, better consumer awareness and behavioral changes and improved support for national and community-based initiatives.

There is also an urgent need for improved and more innovative monitoring of plastic throughout the marine environment given that real gaps remain in understanding the ultimate fate of these materials.

There is evidence that some plastics are not floating but sinking and piling up on the seabed.

“Plastic debris has been observed on the ocean floor from the depths of the Fram Strait in the North Atlantic to deepwater canyons off the Mediterranean coast—much of the plastic that has entered the North Sea is thought to reside on the seabed,” says the Year Book.

It also calls for phasing in changes in the collection, recycling and re-use of plastics. “If plastic is treated as a valuable resource, rather than just a waste product, any opportunities to create a secondary value for the material will provide economic incentives for collection and reprocessing,” the Year Book points out.

Source and more: Global Garbage