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An update on recent reports and initiatives about marine litter and microplastics waste issues

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6. What is currently being done in the world about the marine litter?

  • 6.1 Land-based sources: achievements within the UN system at a global scale
  • 6.2 Ship- and platform-based plastic litter – MARPOL 73/78 Annex V
  • 6.3 UN global assessment processes
  • 6.4 Examples of Regional Assessments
  • 6.5 European Commission initiatives
  • 6.6 USA, National initiatives
  • 6.7 Coastal municipalities and local authorities
  • 6.8 Chemical industry policies regarding marine litter
  • 6.9 Non-governmental Organizations
  • 6.10 Round-table discussion

The source document for this Digest states:

5. Policy implementation at global, regional and national scales (sessions F, H, J)

This section provides an overview of international activities in relation to marine debris, plastic litter and micro-plastics. It is intended to provide background information and a potential starting point for a global assessment of marine litter and microplastics in the future.

6.1 Land-based sources: achievements within the UN system at a global scale

The source document for this Digest states:

Marine debris as an environmental problem has gained increasing attention through recent UN Resolutions, global environmental agreements and decisions of international agencies. Litter was one of the categories incorporated in the 1995 Washington Declaration concerning a Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the protection of the environment from land-based sources (UNEP, 1995). It was listed as being of concern by GESAMP in a report entitled “Protecting the ocean from land-based activities” (GESAMP, 2001). More recently, in 2005, the problem of marine debris and the need for increased national and international control, was dealt with by the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly within the context of its annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea (A/RES/60/30, paragraphs 65-70) and sustainable fisheries (A/RES/60/31, paragraphs 77-82). In 2005, marine debris was also one of the topics of focus of the sixth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (see report A/60/99). UNEP together with partners IOC, FAO and IMO, using the Coastal and Oceans GPA as a clearing house and its Regional Seas Programme, has done much to raise awareness by providing practical guidance and policy advice and to encourage the development of national and local solutions to prevent waste reaching the seas. UNEP (2005), provided a useful review of the issue, including type, source and distribution of litter, and measures to combat the problem. FAO has expressed concern over lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded fishing gear and has addressed this issue through a correspondence group with IMO and in a joint study with UNEP/FAO (2009). UNEP has pursued this issue within the Regional Seas Programme and has published a review of their global initiative on marine litter (UNEP, 2009a). The objective was to present and analyse available information on marine litter produced by the 12 regional seas programmes and to propose recommendations for addressing the problems associated with marine litter worldwide. It does not claim to be a comprehensive overview of global marine litter, but it does provide information on the marine litter issue in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian, East African Seas, Eastern Africa, Mediterranean, Northeast Atlantic, Northwest Pacific, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, South Asian Seas, South Pacific, and Wider Caribbean. According to UNEP (2009a), this study revealed: “a widespread lack of systematic, scientific knowledge on the amounts, sources, fates, trends and impacts (social, economic and environmental) of marine litter, which hampers development and implementation of effective mitigation actions”.

IOC and UNEP (Regional Seas Programme) have developed a set of guidelines for conducting consistent survey and monitoring programmes (UNEO/IOC, 2009) to assist policy makers and support efforts by regions, countries, Regional Seas Programmes and other relevant organizations to address the problem of monitoring and assessment of marine litter. These guidelines include a comparative analysis of information from around the world on existing experience and methods for surveys, monitoring, reporting protocols and assessment of marine litter. UNEP has also produced guidelines on the use of market-based instruments to address the problem of marine litter (UNEP 2009b).Despite these initiatives, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of marine debris, in particular micro-plastics, regarding inputs and potential impacts, especially at the local level and many questions still to be answered regarding the effectiveness of waste management measures. Capacity building in waste management is an area where much more effort needs to be mobilized. (See UNGA resolution 60/30, paragraph 12) Many regions have identified marine litter as a problem, but the overriding issue remains the absence of, or poorly developed, waste management systems in large parts of the world. A key question is how to best distribute recently accumulated knowledge to the areas where it is most needed and how to best influence policy and decision-makers. The tendency to advocate actions such as classical monitoring programmes for marine (plastic) litter may not be the best use of scarce resources when considered globally. A clearer focus on specific areas, e.g. ‘hot spots’, might translate more quickly and effectively into policy decisions. All forms of marine litter need to be assessed, not just plastics, and structured monitoring activities need to be established in key areas – not every mile of coastline needs to be monitored. Hot spots need to be associated with management issues, which will help align such efforts with policy development.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78)

This provides a comprehensive approach to dealing with ocean dumping by creating international guidelines for pollution prevention from ships. There are six annexes associated with MARPOL:

  1. Discharge of oil;
  2. Control of hazardous liquids;
  3. Transport of hazardous materials in a packaged form;
  4. Discharge of sewage;
  5. Disposal of plastics and garbage
  6. Air pollution

Annex V is of particular importance to the maritime community (shippers, oil platforms, fishers, recreational boaters and cruise lines) as it prohibits the disposal of plastic and regulates the disposal of other types of garbage at sea. Under Annex V, garbage includes all kinds of food, domestic and operational waste, excluding fresh fish, generated during the normal operation of the vessel and liable to be disposed of continuously or periodically. It also requires ports and terminals to provide garbage reception facilities for boats. As of 31 July 2010, 140 countries have ratified Annex V controlling the disposal of plastics and garbage into the oceans.

“Special Areas” are designated by MARPOL Annex V as locations where, due to the site’s unique oceanographic, ecological, or traffic conditions all overboard discharges of garbage (except ground-up food wastes) are prohibited. To date MARPOL has designated nine Special Areas: Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, North Sea, Antarctic area, and the Wider Caribbean (including the Gulf of Mexico nts.asp?doc_id=678&topic_id=258 )

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.1, p. 30

6.2 Ship- and platform-based plastic litter – MARPOL 73/78 Annex V

The source document for this Digest states:

By comparison to land-based sources, the contribution of garbage from shipping may not be as large as previously thought, although it remains a concern. It is also one of the few inputs of plastic and other debris which is directly controlled by international treaty. Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 (see side bar), covers garbage from ships and partly from offshore structures. It entered into force on 31 December 1988 and its aim is to eliminate and reduce the amount of rubbish being dumped into the sea from ships. Garbage includes all kinds of food, domestic and operational waste generated during the normal operation of the vessel and Governments are obliged to ensure port reception facilities to accept ship garbage. Annex V explicitly prohibits the disposal of plastics anywhere into the sea.

In practice, it is broadly recognized that Annex V has struggled to achieve its goals and in 2005, the General Assembly invited the International Maritime Organization, in consultation with relevant organizations and bodies, to review Annex V to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, and to assess its effectiveness in addressing sea-based sources of marine debris”. Further information on the significance of special areas under Marpol 73/78 is given in the text box. Of the six Annexes of MARPOL 73/78, some have already been radically revised in recent years, e.g. Annexes I and II covering respectively, mineral oil and bulk liquid chemicals. These latter revisions, which took longer than a decade to complete, should provide significant improvements in the safe transport of chemicals and oils as far as the environment is concerned. Revision of Annex V commenced in 2006 and an MEPC correspondence group led by New Zealand produced a submission containing a new draft text of the Annex which was tabled at IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee’s 61st session in October 2010. An overview of the proposed amendments to Annex V of Marpol 73/78 is given in Table 3 below.

Table 3. MARPOL 73/78, ANNEX V: summary of proposed amendments and permitted discharges.

The above changes once adopted would lead to a strengthened regulation with more extensive record keeping, through which it would be clearer to all that disposal of garbage at sea is in principle prohibited unless under very special circumstances such as emergencies. Other significant changes that are proposed to Marpol 73/78 are as follows:

  1. The exceptions have been expanded to permit food discharge where the ship is at anchor for extended periods and there is a health risk to the crew.
  2. The ship size requiring a garbage management plan has been reduced from 400 gross tonnes to 100 gross tonnes.
  3. The requirement for a garbage management planand garbage record book may be extended to include offshore installations.
  4. Garbage management plans are to include procedures for minimizing waste.
  5. The loss of any fishing gear should be recorded in the record book or ship’s log – with additional detail about gear type, position etc.
  6. The loss of fishing gear that poses an environmental or navigation list (eg. Nets, long-lines) must be reported to the flag and coastal State.
  7. Consequential amendments will be made to the garbage record book and to the IMO Guidelines for implementation.

Finally, in discussing international legislation and its possible application to the marine litter and microplastics problem, some participants considered that other fixed or floating structures that shipping an drilling/production platforms such as offshore aquaculture operations and wind generator parks should fall under some international legislation, noting that aquaculture in particular can be a significant source of garbage including plastic debris (Hinojosa & Thiel 2009). It was suggested that such legislation might only be applicable in international waters.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.2, p. 32

6.3 UN global assessment processes

The source document for this Digest states:

5.3.1 The Regular Process for the assessment of the marine environment.

The countries of the world decided at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 to establish by 2004 “The regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects” (

Fig. 2. Ocean regions considered in the Assessment of Assessments

Assessments are the basic tools for understanding what is happening in the oceans, why, and how effective response measures have been. Assessments assemble this knowledge in a form useful for decision-making. However, a regular repeat of assessments (See Fig. 2), i.e. a definite process is needed to encourage adaptive management in response to changing conditions. It is essential to build on, guide and strengthen existing marine assessments in order to advance a more coherent global system that clarifies and recognizes linkages in order to provide an overview of the state of the marine environment and its interaction with the world economy and human society.

As a prelude to the Regular Process, an Assessment of Assessments (AoA) was carried out to review the availability and quality and existing assessments of the marine environment, in order to: assemble information about marine assessments; undertake a critical appraisal of the assessments in order to evaluate their scientific credibility, policy relevance, legitimacy and usefulness; identify a framework and options to build the Regular Process; consider the communication of the results of existing assessments, their different scales, and how best to build on existing efforts. This resulted in The Assessment of Assessments Report (IOC- UNESCO, 2009).

No global databases on marine litter inputs from land- based activities were identified. It was concluded that national and regional data were to a large extent generated from spot surveys of beaches and, to a much lesser extent, marine areas. A number of studies were identified concerning ship-based sources of debris, at global and ocean-basin scales. GESAMP contributed at the request of UNESCO-IOC a report on the “Pollution in the open oceans: a review of assessment and related documents” (GESAMP, 2009) and also provided in-kind support to the work of the AoA group of experts. An ad- hoc Working Group of the UN-General assembly is currently working to develop the Regular Process and has set up a group of experts.

Table 4. Timing for the first Regular Process assessment cycle (IOC-UNESCO,2009)

5.3.2 The Global Environmental Facility, Trans-boundary Waters Assessment Programme (GEF-TWAP)

The objectives of TWAP are to develop an indicator-based methodology for assessment of trans-boundary water systems (Open Ocean, Large Marine Ecosystems, Rivers, Lakes, Groundwater), as well as to develop a partnership among UN and other agencies, and the arrangements for the conduct of a global assessment of trans-boundary waters. This GEF Full-Sized Project is expected to commence in 2011-2014 and would allow for the prioritization of interventions and of allocation of financial resources and would allow the GEF to track results of their interventions. The TWAP should help identify priority areas for intervention and must cover natural systems but also human systems including governance, the consequences for humans and the required stakeholder actions. It should monitor evolving trends, and predict issues / stresses at a relatively high level of integration, i.e. with a small number of indicators which should be simple, tractable measures with global coverage. The TWAP must be scientifically credible and the recently highlighted lack of data in open oceans (GESAMP, 2009), particularly of ecosystem state, requires an expert assessment of best available science (IPCC-style). A GESAMP task team is currently partnering the TWAP Open Oceans and LME modules.

With regards to contaminants/pollution where GESAMP might be able to contribute, the following issues have been identified as needing further investigation.

  1. Nitrogen / Iron from atmosphere – where are the main inputs, where is the ocean limited and can we make predictions?
  2. Mercury – this is a cross-cutting issue in TWAP and it might be useful to refocus on mercury in exploited fish species
  3. Persistent Bioaccumulating and Toxic substances – global indicator-based assessments need to be developed and can micro-plastics be included as part of this?
  4. Litter – we have many isolated and anecdotal data points but what might be a simple, global assessment indicator? The focus should be on number, form, size , mass and types of microplastic, e.g. as identified using FT-IR or Raman.
  5. Large Marine Ecosystems – what are key risks associated with contaminants/pollution and the links between watersheds the coastal environment and the open ocean?
  6. Hypoxia.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.3, p. 34

6.4 Examples of Regional Assessments

The source document for this Digest states:

A brief overview of selected, recent marine litter assessments is given in this section and some of their key conclusions are summarised. The following assessments are listed in the Assessment of Assessments database maintained by the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC, 2010).

5.4.1 UNEP COBSEA - Marine litter in the East Asian Seas Region

COBSEA (Australia, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam) commissioned a review (UNEP, 2008) on marine litter in the East Asian Seas region and concluded as follows:

  1. Marine litter from both land- and sea-based sources is one of the major threats to the world’s oceans;
  2. Very little is known about the extent and nature of the problem in the East Asian Seas region, including source differentiation, zones of accumulation and degree of ecological, environmental and socio-economic impacts;
  3. The problem of marine litter is likely to be particularly severe in the East Asian Seas region, due in part to the massive industrial and urban development under-way in the coastal zones of the region. This is combined with an exponential and sustained growth in shipping activity serving the region’s rapidly expanding economies, and the current lack of effective marine litter prevention and control measures in many COBSEA member countries, and in many cases, cultural and awareness barriers often impedes political will to address the problem;
  4. As a component of the broader marine litter problem, lost or abandoned fishing gear is likely to be a major concern in the East Asian Seas region, due to extremely large size of the fishing industry and lack of effective regulation of the industry in the region, including an extremely high level of IUU fishing in the region; and
  5. All countries in the region face significant barriers to the effective prevention and control of marine litter.

The final conclusion above is the most telling, as it refers to a long list of measures which, with the exceptions of Australia, Singapore and Republic of Korea are generally lacking in this rapidly developing region, including fundamental: “lack of or inefficiencies with broader national waste management systems”. This was illustrated at the GESAMP workshop by the presentations of experts from Vietnam and Malaysia and was documented in the East Asian Seas/COBSEA regional marine litter assessment (UNEP, 2008).

A regional action plan for marine litter had been agreed among COBSEA’s 10 member states, to improve the quality of marine and coastal environments of the East Asian Seas and which addresses the issue of marine litter through regional cooperation and partnerships. Its objectives are:

  1. to prevent and reduce litter in marine and coastal environments of EASs.
  2. to mitigate the environmental and socio-economic impacts of litter in marine and coastal environments of the EASs.
  3. to raise awareness about marine litter and its impacts, amongst all relevant stakeholders in the EAS region, including but not limited to government decision makers, the private sector such as fisheries, shipping, ports and the plastics and packaging industries, and the general public.
  4. to monitor and assess the types, sources, distribution, quantities and trends of litter in marine and coastal environments of the EASs, in order to provide science-based information for policy-making and management planning.

5.4.2 WIOMSA, Marine Litter in the West Indian Ocean Region: First Regional Assessment

The West Indian Ocean Marine Science Association carried out a Regional Seas Assessment (UNEP, 2009c) on pollution status (Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania) and, with regard to marine litter, concluded that:

  1. Very little data exist on quantities, types, trends, sources and sinks of marine litter, other than in South Africa. Nowhere has the economic impact of litter been adequately quantified;
  2. Marine litter is not dealt with in policy or law as a separate category of waste; it is considered to be part of the general waste stream in the West Indian Ocean region;
  3. Most countries do have laws and policies that govern solid waste management, to varying degrees, but in many instances they are not effectively implemented;
  4. The most significant source of marine litter is solid waste in runoff of water from urbanised areas. This is true for all countries in the West Indian Ocean, as is the fact that the degree of successful management of the litter problem varies greatly between countries;
  5. The major constraints to effective waste management, so reducing marine litter, are inadequate awareness about impacts and/ or a shortage of funds to deal with it;
  6. Sea-based sources of litter do not appear to be as significant as land-based sources and are even more difficult for countries in the region to control; the West Indian Ocean has a high density of commercial shipping and fishing vessels. Loss of fishing-gear and dumping of rubbish is prevalent;
  7. The extent to which solid waste generated on land is prevented from reaching the sea varies between countries, and regions within countries. Participants are found to fall into two distinct groups with respect to their land-based solid waste management capacity:
    1. Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa presently have the motivation and human and material resources to manage waste fairly adequately, and they contribute relatively little to marine littering.
    2. Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania appear to have very poor abaility to manage their waste. Basic removal, treatment, recycling and disposal services for solid waste do not exist in certain coastal areas of these countries. In many places waste is dumped directly onto the coast either for dispersal via the sea or as a barrier against erosion. These countries are amongst the poorest in the world with the smallest gross national incomes and human development indices.
  8. viii) Although the overall levels of marine litter produced by the countries in the West Indian Ocean must be insignificant compared with levels from highly industrialized economies, the situation is considered serious enough to require urgent remedy.

5.4.3 AMEP - Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution of the Wider Caribbean Region

The Workshop was informed that AMEP was set up under the Cartagena Convention to “control, prevent and reduce pollution of the coastal and marine environment from land and marine-based sources and activities thereby enabling countries of the Wider Caribbean to meet their obligations under the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution and Oil Spills Protocols of the Cartagena Convention”. It covers 28 member countries in the Wider Caribbean region, including the overseas territories of the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and France; it is also the only regional convention covering the environment ( ).

The development of integrated management approaches to waste, including marine debris need to gain prominence in the region. Land-based solid waste still represents the largest source of marine debris at 70-80% and AMEP places the major emphasis on prevention through the Cartagena Convention. Policy makers generally only act when there is a threat or an impact on health, industry, tourism or fisheries, and in this sense micro-plastics only adds another form of pollutant to the long list which the region is already unable, or only poorly able to deal with. Micro-plastics as an issue therefore clearly needs to be considered in the wider context of marine debris and integrated solid waste management and needs to be integrated into existing programmes, projects and activities.

The Workshop was informed that AMEP has considerable direct experience in confronting the marine litter problem in the Caribbean, as tourism in the region involves a high proportion of large cruise ships and yachts. IMO is a strong partner and on 1 May, 2011 the Caribbean will implement the region’s MARPOL 73/78, Annex V “Special Area” designation. . The Caribbean experience shows that effective waste management at sea is in fact a broader land management issue, i.e. dealing with the garbage collected on land is the biggest part of the problem. A country-by-country survey was necessary to influence policy and to make sure that ships’ waste and port reception facilities are integrated into national waste management plans. This requires regional standardization of charges and changes to port-state control. Port reception facilities and cost recovery mechanisms have to be introduced in all the 28 member states for the policy to be effective.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.4, p. 36

6.5 European Commission initiatives

The source document for this Digest states:

Directorate General Environment (DG-ENV)

The European Commission recognises that marine biodiversity is under severe pressure from habitat destruction, fragmentation and degradation, over- exploitation, unsustainable practices, invasive species, ocean acidification, pollution and climate change.

The EU is gradually developing legislation to protect the seas, e.g. in the areas of urban waste water, nitrates and chemicals management, as well as the bird and habitat directives. However, it was recognized that there is a need for a more integrated management of human activities, and this can be seen in the more recent legislation such as the Water Framework Directive, 2000, which includes coastal waters, and the Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (2002). Finally, the unique position of the oceans was recognised in July 2008, when the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56 (MSFD) was adopted. This strives to ensure that “the EU Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by the year 2020 at the latest”.

EU marine Strategy Framework Directive: Good Environmental Status (GES)

  1. Biodiversity is maintained
  2. Non-indigenous species not adversely alter the ecosystem
  3. Population of commercial fish species healthy
  4. Elements of food webs ensuring long term abundance and reproduction
  5. Eutrophication minimised
  6. Sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem
  7. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions not adversely affect ecosystem
  8. Concentration of contaminants give no effects
  9. Contaminants in seafood below safe levels
  10. Marine litter not to cause harm
  11. Introduction of energy (incl. underwater noise) not adversely affect ecosystem

To achieve this, each EU Member State must progressively put in place its own “Marine Strategy” action plan. They must cooperate among themselves and also with neighbouring countries, where possible within Regional Sea Conventions (e.g. OSPAR, Barcelona, Helcom, Black Sea). Where the development of marine strategies is concerned there are three implementation milestones:

  • 15 July 2010: The EC will develop criteria and methodological standards on “good environmental status” (GES) for the Member States to use.
  • 15 July 2012: The Member States will develop a description and assessment of current environmental status, including the environmental impact of human activities and socio-economic analysis. In order for GES to be achieved, precise ecological objectives need to be defined in the form of environmental targets and associated indicators.
  • 15 July 2014: The member states will develop monitoring-programmes for all marine waters (adapted to the assessment of progress towards GES).
  • 2015: All Marine Strategies will culminate with a programme of measures.
  • 2020: Good Environmental Status will be attained.

Good Environmental Status means the preservation of ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive, the use of marine environment at a sustainable level, protecting the potential for uses and activities by current and future generations. Under the MSFD, the indicators specifically chosen for marine litter will focus on the characteristics of litter and its impact on the marine environment, including the trends in amount washed ashore, its composition, spatial distribution and source; the trends in amount in water column and deposited on sea floor and finally, the trends in amount, distribution and, where possible, composition of micro-plastics. As an indicator of the impacts of litter on marine environment, trends in amount (number or mass) and composition of litter ingested by marine animals will be monitored.

5.5.2 Directorate General for Research Technology &Development (DG-RTD) – marine research needs in the EU

The drivers for the Marine/Maritime research strategy in the European Union (EU) are:

  1. the maritime economy is of crucial importance and we need to further develop it;
  2. there is an increasing environmental pressure from human activities and climate change, together with increasing competition for marine space ; and,
  3. there is a need to better predict (and mitigate) the impact of climate change through marine science.

Hypothesis-driven science is needed to support policy to help understand the impact of human activities on the marine environment. In this way it is an essential element in developing ‘’Good Environmental Status” in the context of the MSFD. Science is also required to understand the impact of change on the marine environment as well as climate/ocean interactions to better predict climate change and its impacts. A significant number of projects financed by EU Framework Programmes provided the development of tools to support Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP). Europe therefore needs to reflect on a way forward to maintain the momentum and world renowned European research leadership in the area of marine observatories which have the potential to provide a great leap forward in terms of our understanding of the marine environment. ESONET/EMSO projects, working on seabed observatories, and the EuroSITES project working on free standing moorings, could lead to the establishment of an ocean observing capability in Europe similar to that being developed in US.

Special attention is being paid by the European Commission since 2009 through the "ocean of tomorrow" joint calls for research projects. The current "ocean of tomorrow 2011 call" embraces all aspects presented during this session whether on maritime transport, spatial planning, energy, fisheries, aquaculture or marine biotechnologies and puts, this year, a specific emphasis on innovation. Table 6. Sources of pressure in the marine environment and policy drivers In support of innovation, science has a different role, e.g. to mitigate the impact of "traditional" activities on the marine environment through the application of green technologies, better MSP, etc. Science is also instrumental in developing the potential of new sea-based activities for the marine bio-economy, including renewable energy but also in optimizing measures to counteract climate change impacts (sea level rise, coastal erosion, extreme events).

The Commission recognises that the member states still have a way to go to achieve this ideal world and that we need more marine research infrastructure to observe and understand the impact of human activities and climate change on the marine environment. There is a growing recognition that such issues are inter-disciplinary and our research programmes are generally thematic, and that there is therefore a need for integration of knowledge. The seas are shared and major research infrastructure and programmes require funding beyond the capacity of single member states, demanding an improved synergy within an inter-disciplinary, multi-sector scientific and industrial community, which in turn calls for new governance mechanisms. This is, broadly speaking, the structure and aims of the EU marine/maritime research strategy in which an overarching international dimension is clearly recognised.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.5, p. 40

6.6 USA, National initiatives

The source document for this Digest states:

A programme has been launched to support national and international efforts in understanding and reducing marine debris. This led to the first “International Research Workshop on The Occurrence, Effects, and Fate of Micro-plastic Marine Debris”, organised by NOAA (Arthur et al., 2009) – a second workshop at SETAC USA in Tacoma, WA is planned for Nov. 2010 – aimed at developing a framework for assessing the risk of microplastic.

NOAA-MDP recognises the need for well standardised, long-term and consistent methods, through the development of protocols, particularly for shoreline and surface water monitoring transects, and the dissemination of the methods among the research community. NOAA also supports the improvement in techniques of micro-plastic sorting and analytical identification e.g. the in-vitro desorption of chemicals from plastics in simulated gut contents, as well as investigations into the changes in chemical properties of polymers based on degradation and weathering.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.6, p. 43

6.7 Coastal municipalities and local authorities

The source document for this Digest states:

Coastal municipalities rely heavily on the marine environment and are therefore directly confronted with issues of pollution including marine litter which affect tourism and recreation (including ecotourism as beaches attract ca. 60% of visitors to the coast), marine industries such as fishing and aquaculture as well as shipping. KIMO represents 150 municipalities (including coastal) in 15 NW European Countries (KIMO: Kommunenes Internasjonale Miloorgasasjon; Coastal municipalities can be subjected to global pollution over which they often have little control and the socio- economic impacts of marine litter are a large concern, e.g. the costs of beach cleanups, loss of tourism, fouled propellers, and other impacts. KIMO sees education, regulation and enforcement and as key solutions, together with economic instruments such as deposit/refund schemes, a plastic bag levy, no special-fee port reception facilities and improving plastic article design for recycling. To influence policy, KIMO has fully participated in OSPAR Committees, UNEP’s 2009 marine litter assessment and the EU-Marine Strategy Framework Directive implementation.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.7, p. 43

6.8 Chemical industry policies regarding marine litter

The source document for this Digest states:

5.8.1 Europe

PlasticsEurope supports the UNEP (2009) view that the majority of marine litter originates from land-based sources and that we need to prevent it from entering marine habitats through integrated management of solid-waste. PlasticsEurope and the European Plastics Converters (EUPC) are therefore focussed on finding solutions to dramatically reduce the volumes of waste that are being deliberately dumped in the oceans or are accidently ending up in the oceans. A growing concern is how to address the legacy of waste already present in the oceans? Consistent and reliable figures about the quantity of debris, especially plastics entering the oceans, are lacking as is information on their origin. As a result there is a need for further investigation. Plastics are, however, only part of the litter issue and the toxicological aspects are important in deciding which plastic to use. The plasrtics industry needs to collaborate with authorities and the scientific community in helping to finding and funding solutions to stop marine littering.

Some 10 years of effort and over 50 million Euros of industry investment have been mobilized to reduce plastic waste and to encourage recycling. In particular, within Vinyl 2010 the whole PVC chain industry committed in 2000 to recycle 200.000 t PVC waste/yr by 2010 and this objective will be reached. The Workshop heard that feedstock recycling is generally not regarded as economically viable and PET feedstock recycling is the most favourable example, while plastics to diesel recycling is only achieved on an experimental scale.

EUPC and PlasticsEurope fund nine work programmes: law enforcement and lobbying, port- side waste logistics, ‘Operation Clean Sweep’, knowledge improvement, education and awareness raising, global knowledge transfer, ocean cleanup concepts, communication and the impact of waste mangement strategies. PlasticsEurope and EuPC are setting up a long- term programme based on a strong EU partnership involving the plastics industry chain, NGOs, the waste and recovery industry, the EU and national authorities, the research and academic community and a National Educational programme. The aim is to develop a set of clear objectives and to select the right tools to achieve them, as well as to create awareness by working together in an open consortium towards solutions.

5.8.2 United States

A campaign by the American Chemical Council’s (ACC) Plastic Division “Plastics – Too Valuable to Waste - Recycle.SM” makes it clear the plastics industry agrees that “plastics do not belong in the oceans; they belong in recycling bins after use.” Littered materials can end up in rivers, oceans and on beaches from land-based sources in the form of packaging, other containers and resin pellets, and from marine-based sources such as trash/garbage and derelict fishing gear from boating, maritime transport and fishing activities. International Coastal Cleanup results show that all types of materials are present in the composition of the debris that is tabulated each year. The ACC’s activities to reduce marine debris have included a Marine Debris Solutions Workshop held at La Jolla, California in 2007 that convened a broad spectrum of federal and state agencies, business and industry groups as well as NGOs, where participants recommended efforts to reduce plastic waste (thereby helping to reduce the marine component), reuse where possible and increase recycling. The ACC’s Plastics Division also has sponsored demonstration projects that have established 700 recycling bins for plastics and other materials along the California coast, primarily at beaches and rest stops. The plastics industry also promotes prevention of litter and recycling as a member of the national non-profit Keep America Beautiful (KAB) major upcoming antilitter campaign.

The US plastics industry is also working to spread product stewardship practices through Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) – a set of best practices for management to help companies that make or use plastic resins to implement good housekeeping and pellet containment practices for all aspects of handling, use and transport. Although developed as a voluntary program in the US, OCS has served as the basis for legislation in California, and adoption is spreading through the industry in other countries. The ACC and its members also support local and national clean-up campaigns and marine debris research through NOAA and other organizations.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.8, p.44

6.9 Non-governmental Organizations

The source document for this Digest states:

5.9.1 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)

The International Coastal Cleanup programme was initiated in 1986, with a single cleanup campaign by volunteers along the coast of Texas, USA. The ICC takes place every year in September and has grown significantly in the intervening years. In 2009, 498,818 volunteers from 108 countries and locations collected 3,357 tonnes of debris from over 6000 sites (Conservancy, 2010) ( ). Many Regional Seas Programmes have collaborated with the ICC to raise awareness of the marine debris issue in their regions.

5.9.2 WWF

WWF has characterised the micro-plastic issue as: “A global process of unlimited pollution of the oceans by plastic wastes which fragment and degrade to become microscopic plastic particles that become more widely distributed and dispersed in the sea, while being eaten and integrated into food chains”. WWF considers the plastic litter problem to be a global one, requiring global solutions, which should focus on improved products while avoiding harm to marine life. WWF recognises the importance of improved legislation in the form of the marine strategy Framework directive in the EU, a revised Annex V of Marpol 73/78 covering garbage from ships at sea and the implementation of REACH in the EU and similar chemical safety legislation elsewhere.

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.9, p. 45

6.10 Round-table discussion

The source document for this Digest states:

Key stakeholders need to be involved in policy strategies, as there is often a large gap between international efforts (in waste management and marine litter prevention) and local government levels – this latter stakeholder is the most important but may be the weakest link in the chain, in terms of awareness and resourcing. Without addressing levels of capacity there is little hope of progress. On the other hand, beaches can be relatively easy to monitor for litter and micro-plastics, so building this parameter into existing monitoring programmes should not be too difficult. One area where micro-plastics could be incorporated is through regional programmes of monitoring and the representative of UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme challenged the workshop participants to recommend a consistent and clear micro-plastic parameter to introduce into regional monitoring programmes. In the ensuing discussion, the workshop suggested that NOAA’s current methodologies for sampling the water column and sediments be adopted for monitoring micro-plastics, taking account of other published work (Thompson et al., 2004, Browne et al., 2010). The IOC-UNEP Guidelines were published before the NOAA methods were developed. It was also pointed out that micro-plastic monitoring in the water column could be introduced into routine programmes of sampling of plankton and that there were often 20-30 years of archived records (samples) in many laboratories, especially (SAFOS, UK).

Source & ©: ,  Proceedings of the GESAMP International Workshop
on micro- plastic particles as a vector in transporting persistent, bio- accumulating and toxic substances in the oceans. 28-30th June 2010, UNESCO-IOC,
Paris. 5.10, p.46

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