Marine Debris as a Global Environmental Problem

The focus of this document is on land-based sources and types of plastic debris which represent the major debris components in many regions of the world. At present, the causes of marine debris are addressed primarily through implementation of waste management practices, such that end-of-pipe solutions are central to action. However this document explores the underlying cause of land-based plastic debris entering the marine environment, specifically production and consumption patterns of our economies. This includes the design and marketing of products without appropriate regard for their environmental fate or ability to be recycled, waste management infrastructure, inappropriate disposal, as well as the geographical separation between production in relatively developed economies, and consumption/disposal, which is global. In this document, the STAP proposes a revised framework in addressing plastic debris that advocates the use of the five R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign and Recover) in a regional context. The document also has a number of specific recommendations for the GEF, including: (i) a proposal to focus on piloting the life cycle approach to plastic debris prevention, reduction, and management in one of the areas covered by the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans; and (ii) facilitating a global public-private partnership, a key focus of which would be to reduce the environmental impacts associated with single-use plastics packaging.

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