Oceans and Plastics Platform

Facts, Impacts and Solutions to Plastics in the Marine Environment

©Peter Charaf/Race for Water 2015
Plastic Debris in the Ocean

A report by IUCN (2014). The Characterization of Marine Plastics and their Environmental Impacts, Situation Analysis Report.

The present report, conducted by the Global Marine and Polar Programme of the International
Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) within the framework of the “Action for an Ocean Free of Microplastics” project, with the participation of the Race for Water Foundation and the support of Svenska Postkodlotteriet, aims to provide to economic actors, policy makers and the public at large, a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge of the effects of plastics on marine environments, organisms and ecosystems.

We try to address the following questions on this homepage concerning plastics in the marine environment:

Carl Gustaf Lundin

As recently evidenced by scientific research investigations, there is an urgent need to increase public awareness about the adverse effects of plastic pollution on marine organisms, to foster a sense of individual responsibility and to encourage government action and public initiatives for a reduction of the most severe impacts. The implementation of action plans to reduce the input of marine plastic around the world needs to involve different stakeholders from the plastic, tourism and fishing industries, the research community, NGOs, local authorities and national governments. Only this way can socio-economic and environmental issues resulting from plastic pollution be effectively and globally addressed.

The awareness of this growing threat to individual marine organisms, species and ecosystems is now recognized by the international community as one of the main priority issues for the protection of the marine environment in the forthcoming years. With the present report, the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme aims to address its partner and member organizations’ need to have up-to-date and reliable information about this issue, and to build a coalition to raise awareness and identify policy options.

What is happening?
Image by Dumpark

What is happening?

Plastic debris has now become the most serious problem affecting the marine environment, not only for coastal areas of developing countries that lack appropriate waste management infrastructures, but also for the world’s oceans as a whole.

  •  Slowly degrading large plastic items generate microplastic (particles smaller than 1 to 5 mm) particles -> these spread long distances by wind-driven ocean surface layer circulation.
  • Much of plastic debris sinks to the ocean floor where they accumulate, soaking up pollutants like DDT and transferring them to pelagic and benthic marine animals that ingest them
  • Plastic with neutral or positive buoyancy remains close to the ocean’s surface – where they are transported vast distances by ocean circulation driven by regional or large-scale air-sea heat flux patterns
  • Computer model simulation suggest that plastic debris tends to accumulate in limited sub-tropical convergence zones or gyres – where they can stay for years (see map above).

It is estimated that around 4% of the world’s annual petroleum production is converted to plastics (synthetic organic polymers) while a similar amount of petroleum is used to provide the energy for plastic manufacturing. The annual global production of plastics is about 300 million tons, with 44% of the production in Asian countries.

Europe is using about 46 million tons of plastic with almost 80% of the demand coming from five sectors: Packaging, construction, automotive, electrical/electronics and agriculture. Packaging represents 40% of European plastic consumption and consists of products which have a very short life span. In Europe, 26% of the plastic is recycled; the rest is burned or sent to landfills.

See reports on these issues

Hammer_frontPlastics in the Marine Environment: The Dark Side of a Modern Gift” by Jort Hammer et al. (2012):

Plastics are one of the most widely used materials in the world; they are broadly integrated into today’s lifestyle and make a major contribution to almost all product areas. The typical characteristics that render them so useful relate primarily to the fact that they are both flexible and durable. These characteristics are very useful when plastics are used in everyday life. But when plastics are discarded into the environment they can persist for very long periods of time. Because of their nearly indestructible morphology and the toxins they contain, plastics can seriously affect ecosystems.

“Plastic debris in the open ocean” by Andrés Cózar et al. (2014) : Distribution and Fate of plastic debris icoznar_frontn the World’s Oceans:

High concentrations of floating plastic debris have been reported in remote areas of the ocean, increasing concern about the accumulation of plastic litter on the ocean surface. Since the introduction of plastic materials in the 1950s, the global production of plastic has increased rapidly and will continue in the coming decades. However, the abundance and the distribution of plastic debris in the open ocean are still unknown, despite evidence of effects on organisms ranging from small invertebrates to whales. In this work, we synthetize data collected across the world to provide a global map and a first-order approximation of the magnitude of the plastic pollution in surface waters of the open ocean.

“Plasteriksen_frontic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea” by Eriksen et al. (2014)

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). We estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons.

“Lothompson_frontst at Sea: Where is all the Plastic?” by Richard Thompson (2004):

Millions of metric tons of plastic are produced annually. Countless large items of plastic debris are accumulating in marine habitats worldwide and may persist for centuries. Here we show that microscopic plastic fragments and fibers are also widespread in the oceans and have accumulated in the pelagic zone and sedimentary habitats. The fragments appear to have resulted from degradation of larger items. Plastics of this size are ingested by marine organisms, but the environmental consequences of this contamination are still unknown.

greenpeace_front“Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans” Report by Greenpeace (2006):

This report draws together scientific research on the distribution of marine debris in the world’s oceans and its impacts on wildlife. The information is sourced largely from papers that have been published on this subject between 1990 and 2005. Finally it addresses workable solutions to help curb this threat to the marine environment

unep2005_front“Marine Litter: An analytical overview” UNEP report (2005):

The overall objective of the present overview has been to assess the threat posed by marine litter worldwide, measures to prevent and combat marine litter, analysis and areas for potential actions and examine the efficacy of current instruments, programmes and initiatives that address this global threat.

UNEP report front page

“Marine Litter: A Global Challenge” UNEP report (2009):

The objective of this document is (1) to present and analyse available information on marine litter discussed in documents produced by the 12 regional programmes with the help of regional consultants and technical experts and (2) to propose recommendations for addressing the problems associated with marine litter worldwide.

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plastic gyres in the Oceans

Why is it a problem?
Photo by Joao Sousa

Why is it a problem?

There are three very visible impacts of plastic in the marine environment for marine species like sea birds, turtles, fish, seals and many more:

  • Ingestion by marine species –  some birds and marine species have been  shown to mistake plastic particles waste for potential prey items.
    • Sea turtles often consume plastic debris and semi-inflated floating plastic bags drifting in ocean currents which look similar to their favorite natural prey, jellyfish.
    • Albatrosses may mistake red plastic for squid, whereas the ingestion of plastic debris by seabirds is directly correlated to foraging strategies.
    • Plastics as part of the animal’s diet reduce actual food uptake, causing internal injury and death  following blockage of intestinal tract.
  • Entanglement of marine species – animals can get entangled by plastic floating at the sea surface, and in particular by derelict and lost fishing gear (or fishing nets, ropes, monofilament lines, trawl and gill nets) made of synthetic fibers that are resistant to degradation
    • These so called ghost nets continue to indiscriminately entangle and trap fishes and non-target organisms while they drift in the ocean over long distances.
    • It can also produce lacerations and infections from the abrasive or cutting action of attached litter.
    • The effect of entanglement is largely underestimated as most victims are undiscovered over vast ocean areas when sunk or eaten by predators
  • Suffocation of marine species by blocking air passageways, either causing death or inhibiting normal growth patterns

There are also less visible, but still extremely harmful, impacts of marine plastic:

  • Compromised equilibrium: Floating plastics act as hard-substrate habitats, attracting a wide range of sessile and mobile marine opportunistic colonizers which get carried as alien species over long distances, potentially changing the biodiversity and the equilibrium of native ecosystems.
  • Toxic pollutants: Floating plastic particles accumulate toxic pollutants on their surface during their long-residence time in polluted seawater and can therefore represent a source of environmental pollution, or serve as a vector for toxic pollutants that accumulate in the food web (bio-accumulation of contaminants).
  •  Implications for human healthLittle is known about the impact of ingested plastics that potentially contain high amounts of toxic chemicals on their surfaces. Harmful pollutants may bioaccumulate up the food chain and negatively affect human health.

See reports on these issues

Boerger_front“Plastic ingestion by planktivorous fishes in the North Pacific Central Gyre” by Christiana Boerger et al. (2010):

A significant amount of marine debris has accumulated in the North Pacific Central Gyre (NPCG). The effects on larger marine organisms have been documented through cases of entanglement and ingestion; however, little is known about the effects on lower trophic level marine organisms. This study is the first to document ingestion and quantify the amount of plastic found in the gut of common planktivorous fish in the NPCG. From February 11 to 14, 2008, 11 neuston samples were collected by manta trawl in the NPCG. Plastic from each trawl and fish stomach was counted and weighed and categorized by type, size class and color. Approximately 35% of the fish studied had ingested plastic, averaging 2.1 pieces per fish. Additional studies are needed to determine the residence time of ingested plastics and their effects on fish health and the food chain implications.

cole_front“Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment: A review” by Matthew Cole et al. (2011):

Since the mass production of plastics began in the 1940s, microplastic contamination of the marine environment has been a growing problem. Here, a review of the literature has been conducted with the following objectives: (1) to summarise the properties, nomenclature and sources of microplastics; (2) to discuss the routes by which microplastics enter the marine environment; (3) to evaluate the methods by which microplastics are detected in the marine environment; (4) to assess spatial and temporal trends of microplastic abundance; and (5) to discuss the environmental impact of microplastics. Microplastics are both abundant and widespread within the marine environment, found in their highest concentrations along coastlines and within mid-ocean gyres. Ingestion of microplastics has been demonstrated in a range of marine organisms, a process which may facilitate the transfer of chemical additives or hydrophobic waterborne pollutants to biota. We conclude by highlighting key future research areas for scientists and policymakers.

derraik_front“The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review” by José Derraik (2002):

The deleterious effects of plastic debris on the marine environment were reviewed by bringing together most of the literature published so far on the topic. A large number of marine species is known to be harmed and/or killed by plastic debris, which could jeopardize their survival, especially since many are already endangered by other forms of anthropogenic activities. Marine animals are mostly affected through entanglement in and ingestion of plastic litter. Other less known threats include the use of plastic debris by ‘‘invader’’ species and the absorption of polychlorinated biphenyls from ingested plastics. Less conspicuous forms, such as plastic pellets and ‘‘scrubbers’’ are also hazardous. To address the problem of plastic debris in the oceans is a difficult task, and a variety of approaches are urgently required. Some of the ways to mitigate the problem are discussed.

GESAMP_front“Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment : A global assessment” , a report by GESAMP (2015):

Plastics have become indispensable in many areas of modern life, used for clothing, storage, transportation, packaging, construction and a host of consumer goods. One of plastics’ greatest properties, its durability, is also one of the main reasons that plastics present a threat to the marine environment. To understand this issue better, GESAMP was tasked to conduct a global assessment, based on published information, of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment.

Hall_front“Microplastic ingestion by scleractinian corals” by N.M.Hall et al. (2011):

We report for the first time the ingestion of microplastics by scleractinian corals, and the presence of microplastics in coral reef waters adjacent to inshore reefs on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GRE, 18°31′S 146°23′E). Analysis of samples from sub-surface plankton tows conducted in close proximity to inshore reefs on the central GBR revealed microplastics, similar to those used in marine paints and fishing floats, were present in low concentrations at all water sampling locations. Experimental feeding trials revealed that corals mistake microplastics for prey and can consume up to ~50 μg plastic cm−2 h−1, rates similar to their consumption of plankton and Artemia nauplii in experimental feeding assays. Ingested microplastics were found wrapped in mesenterial tissue within the coral gut cavity, suggesting that ingestion of high concentrations of microplastic debris could potentially impair the health of corals.

thompson2009_front“Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends” by Richard Thompson (2009):

In this concluding paper to the Theme Issue on Plastics, the Environment and Human Health, we synthesize current understanding of the benefits and concerns surrounding the use of plastics and look to future priorities, challenges and opportunities.

cbd_front“Impacts of Marine Debris on Biodiversity: Current Status and Potential Solutions” a report by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2012):

This report reviews the current state of knowledge of the effects of marine debris, and provides a preliminary assessment of the impact on ecosystems and biodiversity. It seeks to inform the Parties and other participants in the CBD on the nature of this emerging issue and potential strategies to address it, following the discussion at the 16th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Affairs (SBSTTA) of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

ec_front“Plastic Waste: Ecological and Human Health Impacts” a report by the European Commission (2011):

This In-depth Report summarises and collates current research on the ecological and human health impacts of plastic waste in the environment. Using the Drivers Pressures State Impact Response (DPSIR) framework, it highlights major issues and concerns, as well as outlining questions around existing responses and possible strategies for the future.

news_front“New Link in the Food Chain? Marine Plastic Pollution and Seafood Safety” a news article by NEWS Focus (2015):

News article about investigators researching whether consumption of plastic debris by marine organisms translates into toxic exposures for people who eat seafood.

wspa_front“Untangled: Marine debris: a global picture of the impact on animal welfare and of animal-focused solutions” a report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (2012):

The report has four aims. First, it reviews the published papers and grey literature that identify and describe animal entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris and from this summarises the likely welfare impact of key debris types on the affected species. Secondly, it provides a very broad estimate of the numbers of animals affected by different debris. It then discusses the nature and abundance, where known, of the key types of debris which adversely affect animals, including geographic hotspots. Finally, it discusses the efforts being made around the world to reduce the volume of dangerous debris entering the marine environment, as well as to remove existing debris and to rescue, treat and release trapped and entangled animals.

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Where does it come from?
Photo by Christophe Launay

Where does it come from?

Plastic debris now represents the main part of shoreline debris. Their presence was detected from the deep sea to shore- lines (including remote islands) of the six continents, from the poles to the equator, with more plastic material near popular tourist destinations and densely populated areas.

  • Land-based sources make up the majority of marine debris, from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping.
  • Ocean-based sources principally derive from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture. For example, lost fishing nets and monofilament fishing lines have been found to drift thousands of kilometres, trapping and killing fish and seabirds as well as protected marine species such as turtles, dolphins or seals, through ingestion and entanglement.
  • Municipal waste stream represents an important source of microplastics, in the form of plastic fibres from washing synthetic clothes and microplastic scrub beads (e.g. polyethylene and polypropylene) used as abrasives in personal care products. These particles that are generally smaller than 1 millimetre are designed to be washed down the drain and they are usually not captured by treatment screens in wastewater plants. These insoluble particles can be ingested by planktonic and filter feeding organisms at the base of the aquatic food chain.

The abundance of plastics in the marine environment highly varies spatially and temporally as a function of the distance to coastal populated areas and popular tourist destinations, as well as with the occurrence of heavy rain and flood events; but also with the speed and direction of the surface current which control the transport pathway and accumulation of plastic debris in coastal and pelagic areas.

See reports on these issues

imdcc_front“Interagency report on marine debris sources, impacts, strategies & recommendations”, a report by Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (2008)

The report describes sources and impacts of marine debris, as well as the challenges associated with their characterization. Also discussed are the alternatives, or current activities, to address marine debris that have occurred over the past 20 years, including activities recommended in the report of the 1988 Interagency Task Force on Persistent Marine Debris. Finally, this report contains 25 recommendations intended to guide the Federal government’s strategies on marine debris.

GESAMP_front“Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment : A global assessment” , a report by GESAMP (2015):

Plastics have become indispensable in many areas of modern life, used for clothing, storage, transportation, packaging, construction and a host of consumer goods. One of plastics’ greatest properties, its durability, is also one of the main reasons that plastics present a threat to the marine environment. To understand this issue better, GESAMP was tasked to conduct a global assessment, based on published information, of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment.

thompson2015_front“Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Sources, Consequences and Solutions” by Richard Thompson (2015):

Microplastics are widespread in marine habitats from the poles to the equator; from the sea surface and shoreline to the deep sea. They are ingested by a range of organisms including commercially important fish and shellfish and in some populations the incidence of ingestion is extensive. Laboratory studies indicate that ingestion could cause harmful toxicological and/or physical effects. However, our understanding of the relative importance of these effects in natural populations is very limited. Looking to the future it seems inevitable that the quantity of microplastic will increase in the environment, since even if we could stop new items of debris entering the ocean, fragmentation of the items already present would continue for years to come. The term microplastics has only been in popular usage for a decade and while many questions remain about the extent to which they could have harmful effects, the solutions to reducing this contamination are at hand.

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Who is involved?
Photo by Paul Nettles

Who is involved?

Organizations related with plastic production, usage, disposal, recycling…

Click here to see Plastic Producers (Europe)

AGC CHEMICALS EUROPE – leading producers of fluorochemicals and fluoro chemical materials.

ARKEMA – A global chemical company and France’s leading chemicals producerand holds leadership positions in all its markets.

BASELL ORLEN POLYOLEFINS – BOP is the only Polish producer of polyolefins, and is the largest domestic producer of plastics.

BASF – BASF Corporation is the largest affiliate of BASF SE and the second largest producer and marketer of chemicals and related products in North America.

BAYER MATERIALSCIENCE – Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest manufacturers of high-tech polymer materials.

BOREALIS – Borealis is a leading provider of innovative solutions in the fields of polyolefins, base chemicals and fertilizers.

CELANESE – Celanese Corporation is a global technology leader in the production of differentiated chemistry solutions and specialty materials used in most major industries and consumer applications.

CHEVRON PHILLIPS – one of the world’s top producers of olefins and polyolefins and a leading supplier of aromatics, alpha olefins, styrenics, specialty chemicals, piping, and proprietary plastics.

DAIKIN – Daikin Chemical Europe is a supplier of high performance fluorochemical products.

DOW EUROPE – The Dow Chemical Company is a leader in specialty chemicals delivering products and solutions to markets such as electronics, water, packaging, energy and more.

DSM ENGINEERING PLASTICS – Royal DSM is a global science based company active in health nutrition and materials.

DUPONT DE NEMOURS INTERNATIONAL – global research- and technology-based science company that is dedicated to creating sustainable solutions.

DYNEON – 3M, with its subsidiaries Dyneon GmbH and Dyneon B.V., is a worldwide leader in production, development and sales of fluoroelastomers, fluorothermoplastics, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and specialty additives, which are sold under the 3M™ Dyneon™ and 3M™ Dynamar™ brand.

ELIX Polymers – ELIX Polymers, S.L. is a strong engineering plastics player with more than 35 years experience in precoloured ABS and ABS specialties.

EMS-CHEMIE – The EMS Group is active worldwide in the business areas High Performance Polymers and Specialty Chemicals.

ERCROS – Ercros is an industrial group with a hundred-year tradition and diversified into four business areas: Basic Chemicals and Plastics, and the Intermediate Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals divisions.

EVAL EUROPE – The world’s largest producer of PVOH and EVOH resins and films.

EVONIK – Evonik is one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies.

EXXONMOBIL CHEMICAL COMPANY – ExxonMobil is the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company.

GRUPA AZOTY – The largest Polish and one of the largest European chemical company.

HEXION – Is the global leader in thermoset resins.

HUNTSMAN ADVANCED MATERIALS – Huntsman Advanced Materials is a leading global chemical solutions provider with a long heritage of pioneering technologically advanced epoxy, acrylic and polyurethane-based polymer products.

INEOS – INEOS is a global chemical company producer of petrochemicals and specialty chemicals.

JACKON – Jackon GmbH is a family owned independent EPS bead producer located in the northern part of Germany, with more than 50 years of experience in the EPS industry.

KNAUF Industries – Specialist in packaging and plastic injection parts, KNAUF INDUSTRIES is leader on the EPS molded parts market

LANXESS – LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company in development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals.

LEUNA-HARZE – is a leading manufacturer of epoxy resins in Europe.

LYONDELLBASELL – LyondellBasell is one of the world’s largest plastics, chemical, and refining companies. the largest producer of polypropylene and polypropylene compounds; a leading producer of propylene oxide, polyethylene, ethylene and propylene; a global leader in polyolefins technology; and a producer of refined products, including biofuels.

MONOTEZ – MONOTEZ S.A. is the only company that produces EPS in Greece

NOVAMONT – Novamont is the leading company in the research, development and production of bioplastics.

RADICI – RadiciGroup is one of the world’s finest producers of technopolymers based on polyester and polyamide, included thermoplastic polyamide.

REPSOL – Repsol is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies.

RP COMPOUNDS -a leading global manufacturer and distributor of plastics, rubber and chemicals.

SABIC EUROPE – Diversified manufacturing company, active in chemicals, polymers, fertilizers and metal.

SHELL CHEMICALS EUROPE – Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies.

Shin-Etsu – Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Ltd. the Tokyo-based chemical company, is the world’s largest supplier of semiconductor materials, semiconductor silicon and synthetic.

SOLVAY – Created in 1863, Solvay is a global company driven by proud and committed chemists.

SPOLCHEMIE – Spolek is one of the leading synthetic resins manufacturers in Europe.

STYROCHEM – Bewi StyroChem is the leading producers of Expandable Polystyrene (EPS) in Northern Europe.

STYROLUTION – Styrolution is the leading, global styrenics supplier with a focus on styrene monomer, polystyrene, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) Standard and styrenic specialties.

SUNPOR KUNSTSTOFF – SUNPOR Kunststoff GmbH operates Austria´s only two plants for the production of expanded polystyrene (EPS).

SYNBRA TECHNOLOGY – Synbra is specialised in the manufacture of Styrex® Expandable Polystyrene (EPS) beads, BioFoam® Expandable Polylactic acid (PLA) and PLA Compounds.

TOTAL PETROCHEMICALS – Refining & Chemicals is a major production hub, covering refining, petrochemicals and specialty chemicals. TOTAL Petrochemicals encompasses base chemicals and polymer derivatives.

TRINSEO – Trinseo is a world leader in the production of plastics, latex and rubber.

UNIPOL – Unipol is a producer of expandable polystyrene (EPS).

VERSALIS – Versalis is Italy’s leading chemical company and a subsidiary of Eni, the oil & gas multinational company.

VESTOLIT – VESTOLIT GmbH operates in Marl the largest fully integrated PVC (polyvinyl chloride) production plants in Europe, with a capacity of 400,000 tonnes per annum.

VINNOLIT – Vinnolit GmbH & Co. KG, a Westlake company, is one of the leading PVC manufacturers in Europe and, worldwide, is the market and technical leader in specialty PVC.

WACKER-CHEMIE – WACKER develops and manufactures products for all key global industries and is active in the silicone, polymer, fine chemicals, polysilicon and semiconductor business.

ZAKLADY CHEMICZNE “ORGANIKA – SARZYNA” – Z.CH. Organika-Sarzyna S.A. produces and supplies chemicals.

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Click here to see Sector Groups (Europe)

EDEFA – European Decorative Foils Association -This association represents the 15 major European companies, employing about 3000 people. Our industry has to promote to the European Environment what we are doing. We are responsible plastics converters, and we believe in what we are doing. This will preserve our image in our countries and especially in the EU.

EPEX – European Performance co-Extruders – The association was founded by leading European sheet extruders to provide a forum for manufacturers to address regulations and legislation affecting ABS/PMMA co-extruded sheets and to ensure high quality standards.

EPFLOOR-European PVC Floors Manufacturers – The European PVC Flooring Manufacturers Sector Group (“EPFLOOR”) mission is to recycle increasing quantities of Post-Consumer PVC flooring waste in Western Europe.

EPPA – European PVC Window Profile and Related Building Products Association The European PVC Profiles and related Building Products Association EPPA represents the manufacturers of plastic window systems and related building products in Europe.

EPSE – European Polycarbonate Sheet Extruders – EPSE is the European trade association representing polycarbonate sheet suppliers and producers in Europe. Made up of leading producers of polycarbonate multiwall, corrugated, and solid sheets and supported by resin producers, EPSE promotes the use of polycarbonate sheets in the European market and develops industry standards.

EPSM – Engineering Polymer Shapes for Machining – To represent and promote the interests of the European manufacturers of Engineering Polymer Shapes for Machining and to contribute to the development of a sustainable trading environment for the sector.

EuCIA – European Composites Industry Association – EuCIA is the Brussels – based leading Association of the European Composites Industry, representing European National composite Associations as well as industry specific Sector Groups, such as those targeting end segments like automotive or those promoting particular product groups or processes.

EuMBC – European Masterbatchers & Compounders – EuMBC represents and defends the interests of the European compounds and masterbatch producers vis-à-vis the European institutions and other professional organisations.

EuPF – European Plastic Films – European Plastic Films (EuPF) is a European Organisation representing the PE/PP Film Extruders in Europe.

MedPharmPlast Europe – MedPharmPlast Europe is a sector group of EuPC created in 2014 by and for companies involved in the whole supply chain of plastic medical devices and pharmaceutical packaging in Europe.

PlasFuelSys – European Plastic Automotive Fuel Systems Manufacturers – PlasFuelSys is the representative organisation of plastic fuel systems providers for the automotive sector in Europe.

EPFMA – European Polyvinyl Film Manufacturers’ Association – EPFMA represents the major PVC cling film producers in Europe.

ERFMI – European Resilient Flooring Manufacturers’ Institute – ERFMI is formed to represent the interests of the resilient flooring industry in ensuring the maintenance of high ethical standard within the industry.

ERPA – European Rigid PVC-Film Association – ERPA represents the producers of rigid PVC-Film in Europe.

ESWA – European Single ply Waterproofing Association – ESWA represents the leading producers of thermoplastic roofing membranes in Europe.

EUPET – European Unoriented PET-film Manufacturers Association – EUPET represents the unoriented PET-film Manufacturers in Europe.

EuPR – Plastics Recyclers Europe – Plastics Recyclers Europe was created in 1996 to represent plastics recyclers in Europe.

EUROPUR – European Association of Flexible Polyurethane Foam Blocks Manufacturers – EUROPUR is the European association of flexible polyurethane foam blocks manufacturers.

TEPPFA – The European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Association – TEPPFA, founded in 1991, is the European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Association, consisting of 15 national associations together with 11 companies across Europe manufacturing plastic pipe systems.

EATS – European Automotive Trim Suppliers Association – represent and defend the interests of European suppliers of plastics sheets and foils for automotive interior trimming.

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How do we solve this?
Photo by Martin Abegglen

How do we solve this?

Today there is a global concern and an important public awareness regarding the impact of plastic ingested by marine species and concerning the accumulation of plastics in coastal and remote areas of oceans (trash vortex or gyres). Just recently at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, the risks of microplastics were acknowledged in the Leader’s declaration.

Private and public initiatives, such as the volunteer beach cleanups and campaigns for removing beach debris, represent the major source of information concerning the amounts and types of marine litter; whereas regular cleaning by municipalities and public authorities to maintain beaches attractive to tourists and residents engenders major economic costs.

  • Cooperation: Solutions need to involve different stakeholders from the plastic, tourism and fishing industries, the research community, NGOs, local authorities and national governments, in order to effectively address socio-economic and environmental issues related to plastic pollution from a sustainable and global point of view.
  • Recycling or valorization of plastic materials are the most important actions available for reducing the environmental impacts of open landfills and open-air burning that are often practiced in developing countries to manage domestic wastes, and especially to stem the spread of ocean plastic pollution.
  • Responsible disposal: Sufficient litter and recycling bins must be placed on beaches and in coastal areas. Commercial, municipal (household waste) and agricultural (packaging and construction materials) wastes must be collected from residential areas, streets, parks and waste dumps. Particularly in  coastal areas,  solid waste stream must be minimized and landfills controlled, in order to prevent the discharge of plastics at sea (including by rivers and following rain and floods).
    • Burning plastics with other wastes in incinerators should be preferred over dumping in landfills or littering, while this process can produce energy; but open-air combustion of plastics release hazardous chemicals to air, surface waters and soils from where they can enter the food-chain and be of concern to living organisms and human health
  • Changing shipping, fishing, and tourism industries: Actors should be informed about the necessity to prohibit throwing plastic wastes into the sea; traditional fishing gears could be replaced by eco-friendly products

What can you do to help?

  • Reduce single plastic use (e.g. plastic bags and plastic bottles) and encourage people to re-use and recycle plastic waste.
  • Participate in the monitoring and collection of marine litter

 

See reports on these issues

 

GESAMP_front“Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment : A global assessment” , a report by GESAMP (2015)

Plastics have become indispensable in many areas of modern life, used for clothing, storage, transportation, packaging, construction and a host of consumer goods. One of plastics’ greatest properties, its durability, is also one of the main reasons that plastics present a threat to the marine environment. To understand this issue better, GESAMP was tasked to conduct a global assessment, based on published information, of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment.

Baur_front“Stemming the tide of Marine Debris Pollution: Putting domestic and international control authorities to work” by Donald Baur et al. (1990)

This Article discusses some of the steps that can and should be taken to begin the undertaking of marine debris pollution. The first section provides background information on the marine debris pollution problem. The second section reviews applicable domestic and international control authorities, emphasizing MPPRCA and Annex V of MARPOL. The third section sets forth recommendations for meeting the requirements of these authorities, implementing effective pollution control mechanisms, and achieving long-term solutions.

craddle_front“Tackling Marine Debris in the 21st Century” a report by Committee on the Effectiveness of International and National Measures to Prevent and Reduce Marine Debris and Its Impacts (2009):

This report assesses the international and national measures used to prevent and reduce marine debris that is discharged at sea from commercial shipping, fishing, recreational boating, cruise ships, and other sources, and the report identifies several ways that current mandates could be strengthened to reduce waste, improve waste disposal at ports, and strengthen the regulatory framework toward a goal of zero waste discharge into the marine environment.

icc_front“Turning the Tide on Trash”, a report by the Ocean Conservancy and the International Costal Cleanup (2014)

The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each fall during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

IEEC_front“How to improve EU legislation to tackle marine litter”, a report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (2013)

This study provides an excellent overview of EU legislation that could have an impact on the amount of waste in the marine environment. Six policy instruments in particular are identified as having a high potential level of impact. This is either because they are relevant to a large range of marine litter items and sources, or may have a dramatic impact in terms of reducing an important type of litter. The study’s main conclusion is that the basic framework for addressing this environmental problem is in place. However, several short-comings in the existing legislation were identified, most importantly the need for greater ambition in the current requirements and targets.

ospar_front“Marine litter – Preventing a sea of plastic”, a leaflet by OSPAR and UNEP(2009):

This leaflet has been jointly produced by UNEP and OSPAR to raise the awareness about the vast and growing threat caused by marine litter. It highlights the work of UNEP and the practical measures and steps taken by the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic with a view to guiding and inspiring similar action in other regions of the world.

STAP_front“Marine Debris as a Global Environmental Problem: Introducing a solutions based framework focused on plastic. A STAP Information Document”, a report by UNEP (2011):

This document focuses on plastic debris and examines its sources, identifies impacts on ecosystems and economies, and by considering the life-cycle of plastic products that become marine litter proposes a framework for responding to marine debris issues in general.

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Check out initiatives

These are links to initiatives addressing marine plastics.

5 gyres

A bag’s life

Adopt a beach California

Adopt a Beach UK

Algalita Marine Research Institute

America Recycles Day

Beach watch big weekend

Bio Clean

Blue Flag

Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation

Clean Foundation Canada

Clean Ocean Action

Clean Sea Project

Clean up Australia

Clean up the world

Cloosed loop recycling UK

Coastal Plastic Recycling

Coast Care Australia

Coast watch Europe

EARTH 911

Environmental Clean up

Expedition Med

Fourth Estuary Forum UK

Ghostnests Australia

Global garbage

How to recycle

IMSA Marine Litter Programme

I want to be recycled

Keep America Beautiful

Keep Baltic Tidy

Keep Bermuda Beautiful

Living oceans

Marine Recycling Canada

MAVA Foundation

Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program

NABU

Ocean Care

Ocean Eye

Ocean Initiatives

Ocean Recovery Alliance

Operation Cleansweep

Race for Water Project

Pitch in Canada

Plastic Change

Plastic Debris

Plastic Disclosure Project

Plastics at sea

Plastics for Change

Plastics make it possible

Plastic Ocean Project (blog)

Plastic Soup Foundation

Plastic Tides

Plastic to oil

Plastics. Too valuable to waste

Project Aware

Project Kaisei

Recycled Island Foundation

Recycle Grocery Plastics

Recycle Plastic Brick

Recycle Plastics 365

Recycle your Plastic

Rozalia Project

Ship to Shore

Shoreline Cleanup Canada

Solaplastic Algix

Spiaggi e fondali puliti (Clean Beaches and waters)

Surfrider Foundation Europe

Tara Expeditions

The Clean Ocean Project

The Ocean Symphony Initiative

The Plastic Garbage Project

The Plastiki

The Vortex Project

The International Coastal Cleanup

Think Beyond Plastic

Toy recycling and recovery (plastics-to-oil) project (Oregon)

Trash free waters

Trash hero

Turning the Tides

Upcycle the gyres

Vacances propres (Clean Vacations)

Washed ashore

Waste Free Oceans

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Race for Water Initiative

The Race for Water Foundation is a charity based in Switzerland dedicated to water preservation. Today, this vital resource is in serious danger. It has to be protected. To learn, share and act on our Water Footprint and Marine Plastic Pollution are the main issues the Foundation focuses on. It is a unique sailing expedition,  creating the first ever inventory of plastic pollution across the most polluted ocean areas.

Initiated by the Race For Water Foundation in collaboration with IUCN, the Race For Water Odyssey aims to collect and analyse plastic waste in selected islands of the world’s five trash ‘gyres’ or ‘vortexes’ – large quantities of debris accumulated inside immense whirlpools of water created by marine currents. The crew aims to complete its mission in a record time of less than 300 days.

 

Adrift

Here you can explore how all kinds of objects drift through the ocean – from rubber duckies to plastic pollution – and where each object might end up if it is washed out to sea from your beach.

The website uses a scientific method that is based on observed tracks revealed by buoys in the Global Drifter Program and other scientific research in this field. On this website you can see where ocean-going debris travelled after the Fukushima disaster or the path rubber ducks may have taken after the famous Friendly Floaties spill revealed in Moby Duck.

Sailing Seas of Plastic

This interactive map visualises the estimated concentration of floating plastic debris in the world’s oceans. The densities are computed with a numerical model calibrated against a series of field data collected from the five main Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

Further it shows the various expeditions of the sail vessels participating in the data collection effort from 2007 to 2013, and allows the exploration of all plastic concentrations measured using surface net tows and visual sightings.

Pierre-Yves Cousteau on Plastics

“Some plastic thoughts”
By Pierre-Yves Cousteau of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, writing on World Oceans Day