During the G7 summit in Elmau at the start of June 2015, the G7 heads of state and government decided on a G7 action plan to combat marine litter and expressly committed themselves to concrete measures. Establishing practical measures were on the agenda of a workshop that brought together stakeholders and experts to commit to specific, targeted actions within four major marine debris themes: land-based sources, sea-based sources, priority removal actions, and research/education/outreach.
"Marine litter is the most visible sign of economic practices and a way of life that are not sustainable," highlighted the German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth at the Berlin workshop in August following up on the decisions taken in Elmau in June.
Today, there are an estimated 100 to 142 million tonnes of waste in our oceans. Most of this waste is packaging material and waste from fishing and shipping, 75 percent of this waste consists of plastics. Currently up to 10 million tonnes of waste are added to this each year.
The waste masses in the world's oceans harm marine ecosystems, including the "living resources". Seabirds and marine life become entangled in the waste, are strangled, or mistake the waste for food and starve. Upon decomposition, plastics discharge toxic and hormonally active substances such as plasticizers, flame retardants and UV filters, which are taken up by the marine environment or organisms. This situation also poses risks to the health of human beings, who are at the top of the food chain.
Considering that there is a huge potential for reduction regarding litter reaching the sea, mainly from land sources, in emerging economies and developing countries, this agreement among the G7 now requires regional expansion in order to become a global movement.
Read more about the journey of microplastics in “Did you know” below.
(Source: EUWID, NOAA, German Ministry of the Environment)