Pope Francis called for an end to the pollution of oceans on Sunday as he reminded the faithful to “care for the health of the sea” to mark “Sea Sunday.”
“Sea Sunday” is a day when Christians are supposed to come together to pray for seafarers and fishers and thank them for the vital role they play in the global community.
Pope Francis said it is also a day to highlight the importance of caring for the sea and its ecosystem. “Take care of the health of the sea: no plastic in the sea,” said the pontiff during Angelus on July 11.
Estimates by the United Nations show that eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean annually, killing marine life and feeding into the human food chain.
In earlier pronouncements, Pope Francis had always made references to the need to care for oceans and seas.
In his encyclical “Laudato sì, On Care for Our Common Home,” the pope said oceans “not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures.”
He noted that many of the sea creatures are threatened for various reasons. “Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline,” he wrote.
In a letter to business leaders at a 2018 Vatican conference on the fourth World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis said: “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic.”
“We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us,” he said.
A report released last month by a packaging company noted that plastic waste is still one of the largest environmental concerns in the 21st century.
India was found to be the worst country for plastic waste in the oceans in 2020, with some 126.5 million kilograms of plastic per year being dumped.
The weight of plastic waste dumped by India is equivalent to the weight of over 250,000 bottlenose dolphins, one of the most commonly found dolphin species in the ocean, said the report.
Despite the United States producing double the amount of India’s plastic waste annually (42 billion kg), only 2.4 million kg of it ends up in our oceans.
In 2018 the Plastic Pollution Coalition reported that the United States had exported 157,000 shipping containers filled with plastic waste.
The plastic was shipped to some good quality waste-managing countries like Canada, South Korea and Taiwan.
Larger quantities of waste were also shipped to countries with poor waste management systems, such as Malaysia, Thailand and India.
The top plastic waste dumpers around the world, according to a report by euronews, include:
- India – 126.5 million kg of plastic
- China – 70.7 million kg of plastic
- Indonesia – 56.3 million kg of plastic
- Brazil – 38 million kg of plastic
- Thailand – 22.8 million kg of plastic
- Mexico – 3.5 million kg of plastic
- Egypt – 2.5 million kg of plastic
- United States – 2.4 million kg of plastic
- Japan – 1.8 million kg of plastic
- United Kingdom – 703,000 kg of plastic