Earlier this year, Norway’s minister of international development visited Ghana.
Minister Nikolai Astrup had a simple request: He wanted to spend some time with his team collecting trash from beaches in the developing nation.
His team assured him that could be arranged. Then he was asked the most telling question of all: Where would they put the trash once it was collected?
“That’s the point,” he responded.
Developing countries like Ghana lack the necessary infrastructure to properly dispose of waste, meaning that trash ultimately ends up in rivers and streams that dump into the ocean.
Now, Norway is trying to change that.
On Saturday, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced a four-year, $200 million pledge to cleaning the world’s oceans.
In addition to the monetary commitment, Norway also revealed its partnership with the World Bank on a newly established fund dedicated to curbing marine litter and other ocean pollutants in developing countries — aptly named PROBLUE.
“This fund will support developing countries and emerging markets and implement some solutions,” Global Citizen policy director Michael Sheldrick said. The organization is assisting Norway in calling on activists around the world to urge their governments to focus on the ocean.
With $75 million already promised to the fund, Norway is determined to establish better waste management infrastructure around the world — like building sanitary landfills or creating better waste collection techniques.
“If you look at the hotspots of marine littering, it’s coming from countries where waste management isn’t properly funded,” Sheldrick said.
That said, the amount of work that wealthier countries need to do to clean up the oceans is also significant. This fund is just a helping hand that will guide developing nations to take the proper first steps.
Aside from this fund, Norway is also spearheading projects on its own around the world.
One of these projects focuses on incentives or “cash for trash,” where countries pay citizens to collect garbage off the streets. Recently, Taiwan adapted a similar model, where residents are now able to redeem money for transportation by collecting trash and disposing of it in “iTrash booths.”
Another project underway is Norway’s work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature in small island developing states to limit illegal fishing and clean up their coasts.
“In 2050 we will probably have 10 billion people in this world and the oceans will be even more important,” Minister Astrup said.
He admitted that Norway has vested interest in clean oceans since two-thirds of its export earnings come from oceanic and coastal activities. Norwegian leaders are determined to get the job done since many other countries — like the United States — have failed.
Prime Minister Solberg, Minister Astrup, and activists with Global Citizens are now turning their focus toward the next few months.
To them, the announcement on Saturday was just the beginning as they all work toward getting more countries involved in the effort.
“Many people have gotten wake up calls on the status of the oceans in the recent years because of the beached whales with bellies full of plastic. That has been an effective wake up call for many countries,” Minister Astrup said.