Tackling Marine Debris

Plastic waste is one of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans. Global plastic production reached more than 300 million tonnes in 2014. Much of that plastic has ended up in the oceans, where it harms wildlife, damages marine ecosystems and causes adverse impacts to human health. Due to UN Environment’s work, the issue has garnered much international attention and marine litter has been identified as a major global challenge.

UN Environment’s efforts also continue to stimulate regional, national and local initiatives to reduce marine litter around the globe. The Global Partnership on Marine Litter brings together governments, NGOs, academia, and the private sector to find solutions for marine debris. The Partnership seeks to enhance international cooperation to reduce the impact of marine litter on economies, ecosystems, animal welfare and human health worldwide.

The Clean Seas campaign launched by UN Environment aims to eliminate major sources of marine litter by 2022 focusing on single-use plastic and micro-plastics in cosmetics. Launched at the World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia in March, the campaign urges governments to pass plastic reduction policies; targets industry to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products; and calls on consumers to change their habit. Singer-songwriter and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Jack Johnson has joined the effort by engaging fans and encouraging venues for his 2017 Summer Tour to reduce single-use plastics.

In an urgent call to address and reduce the impacts of marine debris to vital natural resources, human health and safety, and the economy, UN Environment and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host the 6th International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) in San Diego, California from March 12 to 16 in 2018. 

In North America, UN Environment works with partners to address marine litter by raising awareness of the issue and developing activities to share best practices to prevent marine litter at the source. The "Two Minutes on Oceans with Jim Toomey" video series provides important information about urgent issues facing our oceans today, as well as recommended actions to address them, using animation and humor to illustrate the messages.