International Action

The dire situation of marine plastic pollution calls for strong and immediate action to boost current initiatives and fill the gaps in local, national and international preventative measures to reduce the rate at which waste is produced as well as ensuring that appropriate management measures are in place for the safe disposal of material that cannot be reused or recycled.

International Action: to halt the leakage of waste to oceans from coastal nations

The global magnitude of this problem means that this topic needs to be on the agenda of meetings of international leaders such as the G20 summits, UN Assembly, and the World Economic Forum, until an effective plan is agreed.

The best impact would happen if at least the top 20 leakage countries enacted reductions in emissions through better waste management and waste reduction actions.

Rivers of plastic in China, the worst leakage country in the world
Rivers of plastic in China, the worst leakage country in the world

To achieve an overall 75% reduction in the mass of mismanaged plastic waste, waste management would have to be improved by 85% in the 35 top-ranked countries.  This strategy would require substantial infrastructure investment primarily in low- and middle-income countries and would need global support from the United Nations to reinforce the relevant conventions.

Alternatively, reduced waste generation and plastic use would also decrease the amount of mismanaged plastic waste. If per capita waste generation were reduced to the 2010 average (1.7 kg/day) in the 91 coastal countries that exceed it, and the percentage of plastic in the waste stream were capped at 11% (the 192-country average in 2010), a 26% decrease would be achieved by 2025. This strategy would target higher-income countries and might require smaller global investments.

With a combined strategy, in which total waste management is achieved (0% mismanaged waste) in the 10 top-ranked countries and plastic waste generation is capped as described above, a 77% reduction could be realised, reducing the annual input of plastic waste to the ocean to 2.4 to 6.4 million tons by 2025.

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