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MARINE LITTER: A GLOBAL SOCIETAL CHALLENGE


Next FuturEnergia chat will take place on 25 June from 10:00 to 11:00 CEST. The purpose of this chat is to give students an understanding of the complex and multi-dimensional problem of marine litter that affects the world’s oceans and seas. Plastic litter is harmful for marine life and has an impact on a truly global scale. Despite rising media and political attention the magnitude of the problem is still largely unknown.

The chat will give students the opportunity to raise their questions directly to the industry.
Ralph Schneider, Environmental Affairs Manager at PlasticsEurope and Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at the Marine Conservation Society in the UK will be the experts during the chat.

Themes you may wish to cover include:

Marine litter as a global societal challenge


• What are the effects of Marine Litter? Marine litter is harmful to the environment and needs to be addressed on a global scale. It affects not only animals in the marine environment, but also the fishery and the tourism industry. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 80% of all marine debris originates from litter on land.

• Marine litter is too big for a single country, corporation or association to manage. It is therefore essential to actively involve a broad range of partners to develop solutions.

How does the industry take action?


• The plastics industry has launched an action plan with close to 140 projects to contribute to tackle marine litter. In a Joint Declaration for Solutions on Marine Litter it outlines a set of clear objectives for industry action and calls for close cooperation with all partners involved to achieve progress in reducing damage to the marine environment.

• The plastics industry gives priority to litter prevention and research to better understand the impact of plastics particles on the marine environment. Examples of on-going scientific research include working with a joint group of experts on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection called Gesamp and project BIOCLEAN which intends to find smart and robust biotechnological solutions for the degradation and detoxification of plastics in landfills and the environment.

Littering – a matter of personal responsibility


• How does marine litter occur? Marine litter is primarily the result of littering and poor waste management. Littering especially occurs when people do not dispose of their packaging after consumption – be it soft drinks bottles, a package of crisps or chocolate bars, coke cans, paper wraps, etc. This litter on land will very likely reach the ocean.

• Every piece of litter has an owner. It is therefore essential to increase the awareness about marine litter and its impact on the marine ecosystems, for example by running anti-litter campaigns and beach clean-ups. Such initiatives contribute to finally creating a change in behaviour.


Students are encouraged to have a look at these questions in advance of the chat, do some background research, discuss in class and use these or other relevant questions when chatting with the expert.

1. Where do you see the main responsibilities for the occurrence of marine litter?

2. Is it only plastic materials that are found in the seas and oceans? If not, in what way do other materials’ contribute to marine litter?

3. Will biodegradable plastics solve the problem of marine litter?

4. Since when is the plastics industry engaged in tackling marine litter? What is your motivation behind?

5. As marine litter is a global issue, what is done outside Europe? Can we even make a difference with European activities when marine litter floats in from other parts of the world?

6. Which seas or oceans are particularly concerned by marine litter? And which animals?

7. How can I make a personal contribution to tackle marine litter?