Marine Litter including plastics

Why it matters

  • The capacity of the ocean to absorb waste is finite.
  • Reports on the State of the Environment continue to highlight problems and challenges. The first World Ocean Assessment sets a baseline against which to take action.
  • Media coverage is extensive, mobilizing the public and corporate world. Public reports on marine plastics show a variety of impact on marine life through entangling and ingestion that lead to the death of thousands of animals. Economic impact is already assessed to several billions without taking into account the feared impact on human health. Research of impact on human health is only in its infancy.
  • Marine litter, including macroplastics and microplastics, represent a specific problem that can only be solved by political will, societal choices and education.

ACOPS Activities

  • ACOPS convened a House of Lords dialogue on marine litter in 2016 and ACOPS’ Chairman  wrote a letter to the UNGA Secretary-General concerning single-use marine plastics on World Ocean Day 2017 during the UN Oceans Conference.
  • ACOPS participates to the work of the 1972 London Convention on dumping at sea and its 1996 Protocol and interact with GESAMP in its work on marine litter and plastics. See  .
  • ACOPS also participates to the work of the working groups of the IMO Marine Environment Committee (MEPC) on marine plastic litter. The work of this group resulted to, in October 2018, the adoption by the MEPC 73 of the action plan to address marine plastic litter entering the oceans through ship based activities.  In May 2019, the 74th meeting of the MEPC (MEPC 74) and its working group on the topic continued their work and a correspondence group was established, to finalize a draft strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships, based on discussions during MEPC 74. The correspondence group will report to MEPC 75.

As part of our work to raise the general understanding of the impacts of marine litter including plastics and of the complex international and regional frameworks that are applicable, ACOPS supported the review carried out by a team of marine science and ocean law and policy researchers from the National University of Singapore of the status of research on marine plastics in Southeast Asia. The team included ACOPS Chair and CIL Senior Research Fellow Youna Lyons, Theresa Linting and Mei Lin Neo from St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory and the Tropical Marine Science Institute. This work was completed with financial support from the UK Science and Innovation Network at the British High Commission in Singapore.

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