Helsinki joins Plastic Smart Cities – a first in the Baltic Sea

In March 2024, the city of Helsinki joined the global Plastic Smart Cities movement –  becoming the first to do so in the Baltic Sea region. Plastic Smart Cities is a global movement of cities committed to achieve zero plastic leakage in nature. Since 2018, the initiative has supported cities and coastal centres in taking bold action to stop plastic pollution, with a goal to reduce plastic leakage by 30% in the near term, and achieving no plastics in nature by 2030. 

Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen and WWF Finland’s Secretary General Liisa Rohweder signed a commitment statement to fight plastic waste. The joint commitment, based on WWF’s No Plastic In Nature initiative, aims to achieve  plastic-free nature by 2030.

[See other Plastic Smart Cities in Europe]

“Littering and excessive use of plastic are problems in Helsinki that harm the environment and human health, affecting the comfort of urban areas. The city of Helsinki’s environmental goals are ambitious, and this cooperation offers opportunities for information sharing and dialogue with WWF and international partner cities to achieve them,” says Esa Nikunen, Helsinki city’s Director of Environment programme.

Plastic pollution is a threat to biodiversity

Plastic waste threatens nature and wildlife both on land and in water, while causing harm to people. A large part of mismanaged plastic waste ends up in waterways, where it becomes one of the most severe threats to aquatic ecosystems – from larger pieces of plastic, these can  break down into smaller micro and nano-sized particles. With more than 150 million tonnes of plastic estimated in the world’s oceans, latest studies estimate that 9 – 14 million tonnes more are leaking into the seas every year. The amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is threatened to quadruple by 2050, and the amount of microplastics will increase by up to 50 times.

“Removing microplastic from the environment is difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, all measures to reduce plastic use and prevent plastic from entering the environment are crucial. As a coastal city, Helsinki plays an important role in reducing plastic leakage that ends up in the Baltic Sea, where there is already so much plastic waste,” says Iiris Kokkonen, WWF Finland’s marine expert, who is also responsible for the work against plastic garbage.

Helsinki’s road map to fight plastic pollution

“The city already has a number of projects and actions underway that fulfill the goals of Plastic Smart Cities, such as BaltiPlast and PlastLife, as well as the Action Program for Littering and the Baltic Sea Challenge. In Helsinki, studies have been carried out on plastic flows in various industries using the Plastic Smart Cities’ Framework. Next, we will start building a plastic road map. Which will help to provide an overall picture of how the city’s operations can take into account the reduction of plastic use and the promotion of a circular economy. The goal is to prevent plastic waste from ending up in the environment, as it affects each of us,” said Nikunen.

There are now 50 Plastic Smart Cities worldwide, with 38 in Asia, 3 in Africa, and 9 in Europe. To achieve the most significant possible impact, Plastic Smart Cities urges cities to cooperate with businesses, community groups, and non-governmental organizations. For WWF-Finland, Helsinki joining the Plastic Smart Cities movement is a matter of great joy.

“It’s great to get Plastic Smart Cities started in the Baltic Sea region, especially in Helsinki. We are happy about the opportunity to promote the reduction of plastic and garbage together with the city. And, we hope that our example can inspire other coastal cities in the Baltic Sea region to take concrete actions,” said Liisa Rohweder from WWF.

See the original article here.

Share this post

Read other articles