Several Asian nations responsible for the majority of ocean plastic pollution have pledged to initiate a clean-up.
At a UN oceans summit in New York, US, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas.
UN environment director Eric Solheim told BBC News: “There are quite encouraging signs, with nations taking the ocean much more seriously. Of course, there is a very long way to go because the problems are huge.”
Some of the promises are not yet formalised and environmentalists say the proposed measures are not urgent enough.
However, UN officials praised the statement, as part of an international shift targeting ocean pollution.
It is estimated that between five and 13 million tonnes of plastics flow into the world’s oceans annually. Fragments of plastic have been ingested by birds and fish and have been found in organisms at the bottom of the ocean.
The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that 75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just ten rivers, predominantly in Asia.
Reducing a plastic load in these rivers by 50% would reduce global plastic inputs by 37%, it added.
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