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Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste (2022)

Chapter:Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×

E

Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution

By 2000, there have been five binding international ocean plastic pollution policies that addressed maritime sources of pollution (Karasik et al. 2020). Since 2000, there have been 28 nonbinding international policies (“soft law”) addressing land-based sources (Karasik et al. 2020). “However, there are no agreed-upon global, binding, specific, and measurable targets to reduce plastic pollution” (Karasik et al. 2020). In 2021, there was growing momentum and support for strengthening existing instruments and for the negotiation of a global convention on plastics and plastic pollution.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Global or Regional Organization Legal Instrument and Relevant Coverage
Focus: Plastic Pollution
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 2012: UNGA Resolutiona
2015: UNGA Resolution 70/1 Sustainable Development. Agreed on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target (SDG 14.1) that member states should “by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.”
2021–2022 (Under Discussion): Global Convention on Plastics and Plastic Pollution. United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) conducting discussions on a “Convention on Plastics and Plastic Pollution” based on the Montreal Protocol (see below); supported also by 2021 G7 communique.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 2011: The Honolulu Strategy: A Global Framework for Prevention and Management of Marine Debrisb (UNEP, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
Three major goals were:
  • Goal A: Reduced amount and impact of land-based sources of marine debris introduced into the sea
  • Goal B: Reduced amount and impact of sea-based sources of marine debris
  • Goal C: Reduced amount and impact of accumulated marine debris on shorelines, in benthic habitats, and in pelagic waters

Three “extremely important” issues were deemed beyond the scope of this strategy and needed to be addressed holistically:

  • Zero target for marine debris creation
  • Integrated solid waste management
  • Extended producer responsibility
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) 2014: UNEA/Resolution 1/6 “Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics”
2016: UNEA Resolution 2/11 “Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics”
2017: Report—Finds the “absence of an institution with a mandate to coordinate existing efforts, lack of legally binding instruments in key regions to manage marine plastic pollution originating from land, and limited industry due diligence and lack of global design standards to mitigate plastic pollution hamper effective international management of plastics.”c
2018: UNEA Resolution 3/7 “Marine Litter and Microplastics”
2019: UNEA Resolution 4/6 “Member states called for more rigorous monitoring of the status of the global plastic pollution problem and efforts to address it, including existing activities and actions by governments.”
2019: UNEA Resolution 4/9 “Addressing Single-Use Plastic Products Pollution”
2021: UNEP Report Global Assessment of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution, published in October 2021 to inform UNEA-5.2.
2021-2022: A special group (Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group) is exploring how to tackle marine plastic pollution. At the 5th session (UNEA-5) member states will discuss “need for negotiations for a new Convention to begin or not, and whether the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group needs more time to consider governance options.”d UNEA-5 meetings were held in February 2021 and will be held in February 2022.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Global or Regional Organization Legal Instrument and Relevant Coverage
Focus: Pollution-Oriented Agreements Relevant to Plastic Pollution and Marine Debris
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Defines “international rules and national legislation to prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment” (UNCLOS Part XII, Section 5).
London Protocol: The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (London Convention) and its 1996 Protocol (the London Protocol) The London Convention and London Protocol are “international treaties of global application to protect the marine environment from pollution caused by the dumping of wastes and other matter into the ocean. In the United States, the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, implements the requirements of the London Convention.”e
MARPOL Annex V: Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 2011: Resolution MEPC.201(62) Amendments to the Annex of the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 “Revised MARPOL Annex V”
  • Prohibits ship disposal of plastics into marine waters and imposes strict requirements for the disposal of other garbage.
Chemical- and Waste-Oriented Agreements Relevant to Plastic Waste and Pollution/Marine Debris
Stockholm Convention: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants “The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, is a global treaty whose purpose is to safeguard human health and the environment from highly harmful chemicals that persist in the environment and affect the well-being of humans as well as wildlife. The Convention requires parties to eliminate and/or reduce persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which have a potential of causing effects such as cancer and diminished intelligence and have the ability to travel over great distances.”f
  • The United States is not yet a party to the Convention but does regulate some POPs.
  • A number of POP chemicals may be used as stabilizers in plastics or may be absorbed to plastic waste in the environment.g
  • “New chemicals can be added to the treaty based on a scientific review procedure.”h
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Basel Convention: The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal 2017: Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention–BC-13/11: Technical assistance; Work Programme 2018–2019.
  • By 2019, 187 countries added plastics to the Basel Convention. (BC-14/13 Fourteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention.)
  • Parties are required to control transboundary movements of the plastic waste covered under Convention procedures. All plastic waste and mixtures of plastic waste generated by Parties to the Convention which are to be moved to another Party are subject to the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure (the receiving party must agree in advance), unless they are non-hazardous and destined for recycling in an environmentally sound manner and almost free from contamination and other types of waste. The amendments themselves do not ban the import, transit, or export of plastic waste, but specify when and how the Convention applies to such waste. Technical guidance is in development (UNEP 2021).
  • The United States is not a party to the Basel Convention
    • New York Times article on waste ban and the United States (March 2021).i
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance on applicability of Basel Convention to the United States.j
Biodiversity- and Species-Oriented Agreements Relevant to Plastic and Marine Debris
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 2010: Decision Adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its Tenth Meeting (UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/2) “The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”

2016: CBD/COP/DEC/XIII/10 “Decision Adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity–Addressing Impacts of Marine Debris and Anthropogenic Underwater Noise on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity”

2021: First Draft of the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.k “Target 7. Reduce pollution from all sources to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions and human health, including by reducing nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, and pesticides by at least two thirds and eliminating the discharge of plastic waste.”
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Global or Regional Organization Legal Instrument and Relevant Coverage
Biodiversity- and Species-Oriented Agreements Relevant to Plastic and Marine Debris
The Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement) The Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement for implementing certain provisions of UNCLOS and Article 5(f) specifies that signatories “minimize pollution, waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, (hereafter referred to as non-target species) and impacts on associated or dependent species, in particular endangered species, through measures including, to the extent practicable, the development and use of selective, environmentally safe and cost effective fishing gear and techniques.”
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) 2014: UNEP/CMS/Resolution 11.30 Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species—Management of Marine Debris
G7 and G20 Frameworks and Charters
Group of 20 (G20) 2017 G20 action plan for marine debris G20 Frameworkl
  • Website: Towards Osaka Blue Ocean Visionm
  • 2020 Report on Actionsn
Group of 7 (G7) 2018 G7 plastics charter. Ocean Plastics Chartero (the United States is not a signatory)
  • 2019 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Issue Brief: Improving Resource Efficiency to Combat Marine Plastic Litterp
2021 Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué: Our Shared Agenda for Global Action to Build Back Betterq (see para. 43, “We support…stepping up action to tackle increasing levels of plastic pollution in the ocean, including working through the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) on options including strengthening existing instruments and a potential new agreement or other instrument to address marine plastic litter, including at UNEA-5.2.”)
  • 2021 G7 Climate and Environment: Ministers’ Communiqué, London, May 21, 2021r

a See https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_66_288.pdf.

b See https://wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.11822/10670.

c See http://pub.norden.org/temanord2020-535/temanord2020-535.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×

d See https://eia-international.org/ocean/plastic-pollution/legally-binding-agreement-on-plastic-pollution-faqs/.

e See https://www.epa.gov/ocean-dumping/ocean-dumping-international-treaties.

f See https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/persistent-organic-pollutants-global-issue-global-response#alaska?.

g See http://chm.pops.int/Implementation/PublicAwareness/PressReleases/POPRC16PressReleaseUV328elimination/tabid/8747/Default.aspx.

h See https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/persistent-organic-pollutants-global-issue-global-response#stockholm.

i See https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/12/climate/plastics-waste-export-ban.html.

j See https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/new-international-requirements-export-and-import-plastic-recyclables-and-waste#fq4.

k See https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/abb5/591f/2e46096d3f0330b08ce87a45/wg2020-03-03-en.pdf.

l See https://sdg.iisd.org/news/g20-environment-ministers-adopt-framework-to-tackle-marine-litter/.

m See https://g20mpl.org/.

n See https://www.env.go.jp/press/files/en/872.pdf.

o See https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/international-commitments/ocean-plastics-charter.html.

p See https://www.oecd.org/g20/summits/osaka/OECD-G20-Paper-Resource-Efficiency-and-Marine-Plastics.pdf.

q See http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2021cornwall/210613-communique.html.

r See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/g7-climate-and-environment-ministers-meeting-may-2021-communique/g7-climate-and-environment-ministers-communique-london-21-may-2021.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×

REFERENCES

Karasik, R., T. Vegh, Z. Diana, J. Bering, J. Caldas, A. Pickle, D. Rittschof, and J. Virdin. 2020. 20 Years of Government Responses to the Global Plastic Pollution Problem: The Plastics Policy Inventory. Durham, NC: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2018. “RE-CIRCLE: Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Project.” https://www.oecd.org/env/waste/recircle.htm.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). 2018. Combating Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics. https://www.gpmarinelitter.org/resources/information-documents/combating-marine-plastic-litter-and-microplastics-assessment.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page247
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page248
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page249
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page250
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page251
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26132.
×
Page252
Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste Get This Book
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An estimated 8 million metric tons (MMT) of plastic waste enters the world's ocean each year - the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute. Plastic waste is now found in almost every marine habitat, from the ocean surface to deep sea sediments to the ocean's vast mid-water region, as well as the Great Lakes. This report responds to a request in the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act for a scientific synthesis of the role of the United States both in contributing to and responding to global ocean plastic waste.

The United States is a major producer of plastics and in 2016, generated more plastic waste by weight and per capita than any other nation. Although the U.S. solid waste management system is advanced, it is not sufficient to deter leakage into the environment. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste calls for a national strategy by the end of 2022 to reduce the nation's contribution to global ocean plastic waste at every step - from production to its entry into the environment - including by substantially reducing U.S. solid waste generation. This report also recommends a nationally-coordinated and expanded monitoring system to track plastic pollution in order to understand the scales and sources of U.S. plastic waste, set reduction and management priorities, and measure progress.

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