Since 2017 the FSLCI has been engaged on the subject of Marine Litter, most notably through launching the Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management. As part of their current presidency of the G7, Canada will host a meeting of G7 Environment, Energy and Oceans Ministers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from September 19 to 21, 2018. Under the theme of Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy, ministers will discuss global climate action, clean growth and sustainable finance, resilient coasts and fisheries, plastic pollution, energy security and clean energy. In this context the FSLCI has developed a statement on the subject of Marine Litter from a life cycle and resource efficiency perspective.
Please note: A full workshop report on Marine Litter and LCA will be published on the 31st of August as part of our Life Cycle Innovation Conference in Berlin, Germany.
Statement on the issue of Marine Litter for the G7 Environment Ministers Meeting 2018
Taking a resource efficiency and life cycle perspective will help identify better solutions to the issue of marine litter
Marine litter is a global concern of significant proportions. A study by Jambeck et al. (2015) estimated that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste entered the oceans in 2010. This is partly due to the fact that less than 10 % of global plastics are currently recycled (Geyer et al. 2017), causing valuable material to end up as waste and marine litter. Marine litter is thus not only a critical environmental but also a social and economic issue which requires immediate action among scientists, researchers and decision-makers in industry and politics. We thus reaffirm the messages outlined within the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter (2017), the GESAMP reports (2015, 2016) as well as the Call for Action by the UN Ocean Conference (2017).
In addition, we call on the G7 Environment Ministers to:
Foster the implementation of science-based policies and decision making that considers marine litter from a resource efficiency and life cycle perspective
In order to successfully address the issue of marine litter, decisions should be taken based on a sound scientific information basis. A holistic assessment of various materials enables the identification of solutions that are aligned to the concept of circular economy. For instance, plastic is a material that can have numerous benefits when used appropriately, but also creates challenges when it ends up as litter. Hence, there is a need to close material cycles e.g. through better waste management infrastructure not only to decrease impacts by marine litter, but also to avoid the significant loss of material value. In addition, global policy agendas on marine litter, resource efficiency and waste management should be aligned to ensure a coherent approach to marine litter.
Support initiatives and projects that seek to fill knowledge gaps and develop scientifically sound assessment methodologies
Clean-up projects and activities are necessary, yet will be futile if products and product parts continue to end up as marine litter. In order to enable a better understanding of potential sustainability challenges, it is critical to assess the life cycle of plastics already during product design, identifying sources of plastic leakage in product use and waste flows, as well as the quantity that ends up as marine litter, and its impacts on our ecosystems and human health. This knowledge needs to be developed on a global level, yet with a focus on regional differences. To this end, open access to relevant data and information is key to drive sustainable innovation.
In addition, more research activities and projects are needed that enable holistic environmental assessment methodologies like Life Cycle Assessment to include the issue of marine litter within their assessment frameworks as highlighted in last year’s Medellin Declaration (Sonnemann and Valdivia, 2017). Furthermore, research is needed to develop methods for assessing social and economic impacts along supply chains.
Ensure that impacts from alternative solutions are understood before being applied on a large scale
Considering the full life cycle and ensuring the most sustainable use of materials is a key aspect when determining alternative and more sustainable solutions to the marine litter challenge. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of applying e.g. bio-plastics or alternative materials from a holistic sustainability perspective is crucial to ensure that these solutions address the issues and do not cause other impacts on the ecosystem and human health through a shift of burdens to / unwanted impacts in other life cycle stages or regions.
About the FSLCI
The FSLCI is a multi-stakeholder and membership-based community organization for professionals working in business, science and policy organizations who are interested in and working with Life Cycle approaches to enhance the sustainability of economic activities. In 2017 the FSLCI launched the Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management (Sonnemann and Valdivia 2017) and has been working on the issue of addressing Marine Litter within LCA and LCM since then.
Geyer R, Jambeck JR, Law KL (2017)Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made, Science Advances 19 Jul 2017, Vol. 3, no. 7, e1700782
GESAMP (2015) Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment (Part 1), http://www.gesamp.org/site/assets/files/1272/reports-and-studies-no-90-en.pdf
GESAMP (2016) Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment (Part 2), http://www.gesamp.org/site/assets/files/1275/sources-fate-and-effects-of-microplastics-in-the-marine-environment-part-2-of-a-global-assessment-en.pdf
G20 (2017) Annex to G20 Leaders Declaration G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter, https://www.g20germany.de/Content/DE/_Anlagen/G7_G20/2017-g20-marine-litter-en.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=4
Jambeck JR, Geyer R, Wilcox C, Siegler TR, Perryman M, Andrady, Narayan AR, Lavender Law K (2015) Plastic Waste inputs from land into the ocean, Science, 347(6223): 768-771
Schmidt C, Krauth T, Wagner S (2017) Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea, Environmental Science and Technology, 51 (21), pp 12246–12253
Sonnemann G and Valdivia S (2017) Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management, Int J Life Cycle Assess (2017) 22:1637–1639
United Nations (2017), Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action, New York, https://oceanconference.un.org/callforaction