Marine Litter was at the forefront of discussions at the UN Ocean Conference that ran from the 5th to the 9th June at the UN headquarters in New York. Seas At Risk* addressed solutions to the global threat, by co-hosting a side event and submitting a commitment on single-use plastics.
The side event, entitled ‘Solutions to marine plastic litter’ was organized jointly with a wide range of NGOs, research institutes and political parties, and aimed to discuss solutions using approaches grounded in education, research and policy.
The key messages from Seas At Risk to the conference revolved around the urgent need for regulations to tackle plastic pollution. Executive Director Monica Verbeek stressed to the event that single use plastics are often the main items causing marine plastic pollution, and these should be tackled through legislation. Beyond policy makers, producers have a vital role to play in reducing plastic pollution. They should take responsibility for their products beyond the use phase and ensure responsible disposal. They should also ensure that circular economy principles are at the core of all product design, with a focus on products that are durable, reusable and recyclable.
Other speakers highlighted that there is not one solution to the widespread threat of marine litter. The problem needs to be tackled from various angles, with different solutions in different places of the world. In Asia for example, there is an urgent need to get proper waste management in place, which often starts with poverty alleviation, whereas in Europe waste management can be improved, but the emphasis should be on a shift to sustainable production and consumption, and a change in lifestyles. Here, not only consumers should be involved, but regulators and producers should also play a key role.
As well as the side event, Seas At Risk also made a commitment to work towards an end to disposable single-use plastic products in light of their non-circular nature and the frequency these products become marine plastic pollution. Seas At Risk committed to funding a study into single use plastic items that are often used outside of the home, and are common marine litter items. Along with this, Seas At Risk will also explore existing best practices to prevent these items from turning into plastic pollution. The aim is that an improved understanding of the level of unnecessary plastics used, and the methods available for avoiding them will encourage businesses and legislators to take action for the sake of the environment.
*Seas At Risk is an umbrella organisation of environmental NGOs from across Europe that promotes ambitious policies for marine protection at European and international level. As a member, Project AWARE is working alongside other Alliance members to ensure that EU governments take marine litter seriously and commit to implementing the most effective measures to tackle the problem.