UN study details sea-litter problem

A growing tide of marine litter is harming oceans and beaches worldwide, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the environmental organisation Ocean Conservancy. The study, Marine Litter: A Global Challenge, is the first attempt to take stock of the marine-litter situation in the 12 major regional seas around the world, UNEP said.


“Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director. “The plastic bags, bottles and other debris piling up in the oceans and seas could be dramatically reduced by improved waste reduction, waste management and recycling initiatives.”


He added: “Some of the litter, like thin-film, single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.”


The report’s findings indicate that despite several international, national and regional efforts to reverse marine pollution, alarming quantities of rubbish thrown out to sea continue to endanger human safety and health, entrap wildlife, damage nautical equipment and deface coastal areas. Plastic and smoking-related materials are pervasive in marine litter, and land-based activities are the largest source of it.


The problem of marine litter is likely to be particularly severe in the East Asian region, the report said. Home to 1.8 billion people — 60% of whom live in coastal areas – the region is experiencing simultaneous growth in shipping activity as well as in industrial and urban development. In South Asia, the ship-breaking industry has become a major source of marine debris and heavy-metal pollution to coastal areas.

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