Monaco Ocean Week: World-first report into life cycle of plastics delivers shocking results

The first ever comprehensive report on the impacts of plastic on human health at every stage of its life cycle has been revealed during Monaco Ocean Week. The next step: to put a global cap on plastic production.

The Minderoo-Monaco Commission, made up of world-leading researchers in the fields of healthcare, the ocean and the environment, have collaborated to present the most detailed analysis of its kind ever seen.

The overwhelming conclusion is that plastic causes premature death at every stage of its life cycle, from production to use and disposal.

“99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which I don’t think most people realise,” Professor Phillip Landrigan, Director of the Global Observatory on Planetary Health at Boston College, tells Monaco Life.

“When we did this analysis, we looked at the health hazards of plastic, starting with the extraction of the fossil fuels, the conversion of the fossil fuels into plastic, which uses very complicated chemical processes, the use of plastic and then ultimately its disposal as plastic waste. There are health hazards at every stage of that progression and we try to trace them out, and that’s what’s really unique about this report.”

Plastic production

Current figures show that 10,500 chemicals are used to make plastic today, while a third of all plastic produced each year is single use. Looking to the future, the largest increases in plastic usage is anticipated in the emerging economies of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. As a result, there could be as much as 256 mega tonnes of mismanaged waste by 2060, a fact that paints a terrifying picture.

Recycling is not the only answer

Despite popular belief, only 9% of plastic waste is recycled today. But even that comes with mortal danger to human health. Chemical additives in plastics can be released during the recycling and recovery processes, and leach out of products made from recycled plastics. In fact, more dangerous chemicals are found in recycled plastics than “virgin” plastics.

“Most people are very conscientious about recycling, we’re accustomed to doing it. But unlike glass and aluminium, for example, which has a recycling rate of around 85%, only 9% of plastic is recycled,” explains Prof. Landrigan. “It’s because the recycling organisations can’t do anything with it. There are many different types of plastic and it’s impossible to sort them, but an even larger problem is that plastics are made of more than 10,000 chemicals – some cause cancer, some can cause birth defects in babies, some can cause brain damage and disrupt the functioning of the endocrine system – and because plastic waste contains all of these nasty materials, you can’t just recycle it and then put it back into food packaging, clothing or a child’s toy.”

Plastic leakage

While plastic waste is easily identifiable in the environment, plastic leakage is less so. The report found that plastic leakage occurs at every stage of its life cycle. During production, plastic resin pellets and powders are unintentionally released into the environment during manufacture, transport, loading, storage, use and recycling.

While in use, macro- and microplastics leak into the environment primarily through road transport, paint and litter.

At the disposal stage, plastics leak into the environment in a number of ways, including incineration, wastewater sludge, uncontrolled landfill dumps and mechanical recycling.

Impact on oceans

The presence of plastics in the ocean and their impact have been documented for decades, with estimates of around nine to 23 mega tonnes of plastics being dumped in the ocean each year. It’s a shocking statistic when you consider that a plastic bag, for example, can take up to 2,500 years to break down, and PVC pipes 500 years.

Meanwhile, microplastics have been found in over 1,200 marine species, including seafood species consumed by humans.

Yet despite a significant head start, the Commission’s findings reveal a greater need for better measurement and monitoring of the effects of plastic chemicals on marine species, and the authors also uncover a major knowledge gap concerning the ingestion of micro- and nano-plastic particles (MNPs).

Dr Hervé Raps, Physician Delegate for Research at Centre Scientifique de Monaco, emphasises the need to fully understand the impacts of marine plastic pollution.

“Plastic waste endangers the ocean ecosystems upon which all humanity depends for food, oxygen, livelihood and well-being,” says Dr. Raps. “Despite evidence suggesting consumption of seafood is not a major pathway for transfer of plastic to humans, we are seeing an increase in macro and micro-plastic particles being identified in hundreds of marine species, including those consumed by humans. And alongside the new findings of this report, linking toxic chemicals to human harms, this is not the time to slow down our understanding of the ocean – the lungs of the Earth.”

Health impacts of plastic

For those involved in the production of plastic, the health impacts are numerous: lung cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer and decreased fertility, to name a few.

For the “fenceline communities” impacted by fracking, a controversial process of retrieving fossil fuels to make plastic, the health impacts include asthma, premature birth, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems.

For users of plastics, which is almost every human being on the planet, the leaching of chemical additives has been scientifically proven to cause neurological disorders, birth defects, cancer, renal disease, decreased fertility, obesity and many more.

The health costs of plastic

To measure the economic impact of plastics on human health, the commission partnered with economists and developed an estimate of costs. Among its conclusions: that deaths from exposure to plastics, its impact on IQ loss and intellectual ability, and the role it plays in causing heart disease and strokes, costs the United States government $920 billion a year. Due to a lack of quantifiable data, this figure doesn’t even take into consideration the ingestion of plastics through the food chain or the inhalation of plastic particles.

What does the Commission recommend?

Prof. Phillip Landrigan has spent a lifetime studying the effects of harmful chemicals on children’s brain development and neurological systems, and is particularly concerned about the lack of progress made by regulators.

“Very few details about the identity, chemical makeup and potential toxicity of plastic chemicals are disclosed by plastic producers, and in most countries, they are under no legal obligation to do so,” says Prof. Landgrigan.

The Minderoo-Monaco Commission is recommending the establishment of health-protective standards for plastic chemicals under the Global Plastics Treaty, requiring the testing of all polymers (the “backbones” of chemicals) and plastic chemicals for toxicity before entering markets, as well as post-market surveillance.

The Commission urges that a cap on global plastic production be a defining feature of the Global Plastics Treaty, and that the Treaty go far beyond marine litter to cover the entire life cycle of plastics.

Who is the Commission targeting with its report?

As well as informing policymakers, the Commission’s report is designed to educate physicians, nurses, public health workers and the global public about the full magnitude of plastics’ hazards, which put the disadvantaged and poor, as well as women and children, at particularly high risk.

“The aim of this report is to let the world know that plastic is a huge problem. For the last 50 years, we have viewed plastic as cheap and convenient. But what this report aims to do is say, hey, it’s not as cheap as you thought it was, there are great costs, and up until now they have been invisible. It’s our job to make these costs visible,” says Prof. Landrigan.

Monaco and Prince Albert leading the charge

As an expert consultant with the Scientific Centre of Monaco, Prof. Landrigan knows the lengths to which Prince Albert has gone to put the oceans, and ecosystems, on the international agenda. That is why the Commission chose Monaco Ocean Week to launch its report.

“Presenting this work at Monaco Ocean Week puts the power and the prestige of the State of Monaco behind the report,” concludes the professor. Monaco may be one of the world’s smallest states, but as Head of State, Prince Albert has the same stature as (US President) Joe Biden, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and (French President) Emmanuel Macron. He sits at the UN, and when a head of state, even a small state, courageously stands up and says we need to do the right thing, that carries weight. There are many countries around the world who are going to follow Prince Albert’s lead and want to do the right thing.”

 

Listen to the full interview with Prof. Phillip Landrigan in our podcast…

Podcast interview: Prof. Phillip Landrigan on opening the world’s eyes to the impacts of plastic on human health

 

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SEE ALSO:

THE GREAT DETOX: EU TO BAN WIDELY USED CHEMICALS

MONACO PART OF LANDMARK ANTI PLASTIC POLLUTION RESOLUTION

 

Photo credit: Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

 

 

Planes and trains to be heavily impacted by 23rd March pension strike

sncf avantage

The protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform bill, which has raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, will carry on despite the bill being a done deal and two no-confidence votes in the legislature failing to topple the government.  

And so it continues.  

Another round of nationwide inter-union strikes against the now-passed pension reform bill in France are coming on Thursday 23rd March, with transportation being the most heavily affected locally.  

TRANSPORT 

The SNCF and Nice’s Lignes d’Azur network have both indicated they will join in the demonstrations. SNCF disruptions are not yet known, but a timetable is expected to be put out the evening before Thursday to help commuters manoeuvre through the mess.  

Lignes d’Azur has already announced there will be no trams and very few buses.  

Tram lines 1, 2 and 3 will be stopped as will bus lines 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 57, 64, 70, 81, 99 and Cadam East. 

The public transport service for people with reduced mobility, Mobil’Azur, will also not be running. Additionally, the Lignes d’Azur sales offices and all the Parcazur facilities will be closed. 

France airports could see widespread cancellations as the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) has already asked airlines to scale back flights at some airports due to the strike action by air traffic controllers.   

Real time flight information out of Nice Airport can be found here for departures and here for arrivals.   

EDUCATION 

This sector is cause for concern as exams are approaching and many are wondering if they will be affected by the protests.  

Unions “have chosen” to not call exam strikes, noting that those who have been gearing up for these tests have been working hard and deserve to take exams in the “best possible conditions”.  

A joint press release from unions expressly states: “[The students] have been preparing for these tests with their teachers for several months, and very often experience the usual stress when approaching an exam. We therefore consider that it is necessary to guarantee them the best conditions for passing the tests.”  

UNSUCCESSFUL NO-CONFIDENCE VOTES 

Two no-confidence votes put forward Monday in the hopes of dislodging the current government, citing discontent for ramming through the pension reform act using Article 49.3 of the Constitution as the reason, have both failed.  

The first from LIOT was a close call with a slim nine vote margin, but the second from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally missed the mark by a far bigger proportion.  

The result means the bill is all but adopted, for now at least. The bill must still pass checks on its constitutionality, meaning parts could be invalidated before it is enacted.  

  

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Photo by Monaco Life

Ghizlan El Glaoui showcases ‘Once upon a woman’ at Prince’s Foundation headquarters

Painter Ghizlan El Glaoui has opened her exhibition titled ‘Once upon a woman’ at the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, where it will be on display until 30th June.

The inauguration took place symbolically on 8th March, International Women’s Day.

This collaboration between the artist and the Prince Albert Foundation is full of meaning, considering the Monegasque institution, through its commitment to advance planetary health, promotes many projects that support women. They include an initiative in Burkina Faso that trains and supports older women from different backgrounds in rural areas to facilitate access to sustainable energy for 250,000 people across 250 villages.

Similarly, the EGALES project (Gender Equality and Access to Electricity in Senegal) aims to sustainably improve the working conditions and income of 600 women by involving them in the agricultural activity of their country.

It is a strategy that remains at the heart of the Foundation in 2023, and it is why artist Ghizlan El Glaoui chose to exhibit her works at the institution. From now until 30th June, the public can see her remarkable female portraits, which include Geishas, Berber women, Frida Kahlo and Grace Kelly, as well as many anonymous faces.

Growing up in a culture where women were not encouraged to stand out, Ghizlan El Glaoui quickly expressed her desire for freedom by painting women with their faces uncovered, on luminous backgrounds, in classic format or on monumental sails.

After exhibiting in Marrakech, London, Madrid and Monaco, the painter will take pride of place at the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, highlighting the paths of women of yesterday and today, from here and elsewhere, and sharing the same values as Monegasque Institution.

‘Once upon a woman’ exhibition

Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation

Until 30th June by appointment.

 

READ MORE:

Interview: Artist Ghizlan El Glaoui

 

Do you have an event in Monaco or the French Riviera that you would like us to include in our What’s On section and events calendar? Please email editor@monacolife.net.  

 

 

The Oceanographic Museum is hiring

People looking at the aquarium

Monaco’s most popular tourist attraction, The Oceanographic Museum, has 39 positions to fill for the busy summer season. Here’s how to apply.

On Wednesday 5th April, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco will hold its recruitment day, from 10am to 4pm.

Up for grabs are 39 seasonal, temporary and fixed-term contracts from April in the various reception, entertainment, boutique, cashier, sales and exhibition departments.

On recruitment day, the heads of the departments will meet individually with the candidates previously registered on the website www.oceano.org, where they will have an opportunity to virtually meet the teams, discover the different jobs offered and understand their missions and challenges.

Net-Zero Industry Act to give priority to green tech investments

The newly announced Net-Zero Industry Act plans to make Europe a beacon of green technology and manufacturing.  

Announced by President Ursula von der Leyen as a part of the wider Green Deal Industrial Plan, the proposed Net-Zero Industry Act seeks to scale up the manufacturing of clean technologies in the EU and ensure the bloc is well-equipped for the clean energy transition. 

“We need a regulatory environment that allows us to scale up the clean energy transition quickly,” said von der Leyen. “The Net-Zero Industry Act will do just that. It will create the best conditions for those sectors that are crucial for us to reach net-zero by 2050: technologies like wind turbines, heat pumps, solar panels, renewable hydrogen as well as CO2 storage. Demand is growing in Europe and globally, and we are acting now to make sure we can meet more of this demand with European supply.” 

A focus on technologies that make a “significant contribution to decarbonisation”

To make the Net-Zero Industry Act work, the European Commission (EC) plans to cut red tape and make investment and grants easier to obtain. Priority will be given to the types of projects that make a “significant contribution to decarbonisation”, putting them to the front of the queue for funding. 

According to the European Commission, the act will “create better conditions to set up net-zero projects in Europe and attract investments, with the aim that the Union’s overall strategic net-zero technologies manufacturing capacity approaches or reaches at least 40% of the Union’s deployment needs by 2030”. 

Industry competitiveness and job creation

The goal is to accelerate progress towards the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets as well as the transition to climate neutrality all while “boosting the competitiveness of EU industry, creating quality jobs and supporting the EU’s efforts to become energy independent”.  

Skilled workers will be needed to run the show, so the EU is also supporting training via Net-Zero Industry Academies, overseen by the project with an eye to building the workforce of tomorrow.   

The proposal also includes reforms for the electricity market’s design in order to lessen reliance on imports – a lesson learned the hard way after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 – and push cleaner energy supplies to the forefront.   

The tabled proposal will now go the next level, where it will be discussed and finessed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, before being enacted. 

 

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Photo source: Zbynek Burival for Unsplash

 

 

Vast Valbonne estate with ties to JFK goes on sale for €31.5 million

valbonne JFK kennedys

A stunning 18-hectare estate enjoyed by a young JFK and his family during the summer months has been listed by Sotheby’s International Realty for €31.5 million. 

Property such as this is rare even for the south of France. Set in 18 hectares of woodland, olive groves and wildflower meadows, Château de Beaumont is a true haven of peace and tranquility that boasts an unobstructed view down to the Mediterranean from its location at the crest of its own hill between Valbonne and Mougins.  

It was built by French architect Jacques Couelle in the 1920s for the Carrs, a wealthy American family who had a genuine appreciation for the historic buildings of the region. In the decades that followed, it would become the holiday home of the young John F. Kennedy, later the President of the United States, and his family, who spent their summers enjoying its naturalistic beauty and charm while his father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, held a role as US Ambassador to Great Britain. 

Locals driving between Valbonne and Mougins along the Route de Cannes will have likely glimpsed horses grazing on the meadows at the perimetre of the property, but it is far harder to see the magnificent château, which is shielded by a forest of native woodland.  

The park has two natural water sources, several ornamental pools and fountains, an olive grove and gorgeous landscaped flower gardens. In terms of modern amenities, the focal point is the 20-metre heated marble swimming pool and pool house, but it also has a tennis court and an aviary.  

1,160 square metres of living space is split between the main “house”, numerous staff dependencies and a partially finished 150-square-metre Provençal house near the entrance to the estate.  

The principal residence has nine ensuite bedrooms across three floors and all the trappings you would expect from a luxury home of this scale, such as a dedicated cinema room and a temperature-controlled wine cellar.  

Further photos of Château de Beaumont can be found here. Click on the images below to enlarge…

 

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Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty