Combatting marine plastic litter: state of play and perspectives

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Plastic pollution in the Ocean is extensive, alarming, threatening marine species and ecosystems, impacting human activities and wellbeing, and costing billions of dollars yearly.  The main drivers of plastic litter from land-based sources appear to be high population density, mismanagement of plastic waste, incorrect consumers’ disposal behavior, and high production rates.  The number of scientific articles on marine plastic pollution increasing from 50 in 2013 to 200 in 2017.  This report is an overview of the issues and highlights a selection of key initiatives to mitigate and prevent plastic pollution.

  • Section 1 is an overview of the plastics problem, e.g., estimates indicate that 10,000,ooo,ooo+ tons of plastic find their way into the Ocean on a yearly basis.
  • Section 2 assesses the current regulatory frameworks, e.g., The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • Section 3 highlights some of the initiatives launched by civil society, including the private sector, e.g., clean up operations, improving the circular economy, scientific research into the issue, and R&D on plastics innovation and alternatives.
  • Section 4 presents the ongoing discussions towards an international treaty, i.e., the UN Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics
  • Section 6 concludes by suggesting possible ways forward, including strengthening the global coordination and monitoring of plastic-related actions; enhancing synergies between competent conventions; and developing new initiatives within existing global and regional frameworks.
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