Towards an agreement to combat marine litter

Published: 13 September 2017 Author: Stefan Talmon

Germany considers marine litter to be one of the most pressing global environmental problems of our time. An estimated 140 million tonnes of waste are found in the oceans, with plastic packaging and plastic residues accounting for up to 75 percent of ocean waste. The Pacific Ocean is the most affected by marine litter with a “garbage patch” of some 700,00 km2, twice the size of Germany. Over 80 percent of marine litter has land-based sources. Plastic particles in the oceans affect all forms of marine life, from fish, cetaceans, corals, zooplankton, to sea birds. In addition, plastic waste affects cooling water and filtering systems in thermal power plants and desalination plants.

Germany has been one of the driving forces in combatting marine litter. Under Germany’s presidency, the Group of Seven countries (G7) in June 2015 adopted the “G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter”. In their Summit Declaration the leaders of the G7 acknowledged that “marine litter, in particular plastic litter, poses a global challenge, directly affecting marine and coastal life and ecosystems and potentially also human health.”

On 30 March 2017, the Federal Parliament called upon the Government

“to agree measures against marine litter within the group of G20 countries. In addition, [the federal government] is to pursue the conclusion of an international convention which will regulate the flow of materials under national legislation within the framework of a recycling-based economy, in order to prevent the uncontrolled introduction of plastics into the environment.”


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