- The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee adopted a new action plan to combat marine plastic Tuesday, aimed at enacting new regulations to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean stemming from ships, according to a press release.
- The IMO acknowledged existing regulations have not stopped ocean litter. As a result, the agency developed an action plan to take another look at existing rules and the infrastructure needed to mitigate ocean plastic pollution. Details will come into further focus at the next committee meeting in April.
- The action plan assesses port-side collection facilities, the possibility of requiring registration of containers and fishing gear lost at sea and more.
Dumping plastic in the ocean is already illegal and ports are required to provide adequate means of collecting debris in port, but existing measures still haven't slowed down the growing problem of marine plastic.
Macro-plastic pollution, meaning plastic items large enough to pick up and often recognize, threaten tourism and fishing industries along with wildlife. Abandoned fishing nets are particularly harmful as they can tangle up both wildlife and ship rudders and propellers. The nets account for roughly 10% of ocean plastic, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, adding up to an expected 800,000 metric tonnes in 2018. By weight, the nets are thought to account for an even larger share of the marine debris issue. Micro-plastic too, which is less than five millimeters in size, negatively affects both wildlife and human health.
The private sector has organized around this issue as well. NextWave Plastics is an initiative to develop a commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics supply chain — members include corporate heavy-hitters like HP, IKEA, and DELL. And SC Johnson teamed up with Plastic Bank to open eight recycling centers in Indonesia over the next year, where local workers can exchange plastic for digital tokens that can be used for goods and services with an eye to reducing the amount of plastic entering the sea.
Deterring plastic that commonly ends up in oceans from the land and encouraging recycling is a good start, but won't solve the problem of plastics intentionally or accidentally dumped at sea, which is what the IMO's new plan seeks to address.
The Loadstar reported that since regulations banning litter in the ocean already exist, the problem may be one of enforcement.