Marine litter is a global concern crossing country borders. As such it is increasingly receiving attention not just from researches and civil society but also from companies and policy-makers around the world. Today the European Commission announced its plan to ban the single-use products in the fight against plastic waste as a major step towards addressing the challenge. This measure is intended to complement the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) which requires EU Member States to ensure that, by 2020, “properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment”.

However, as with all sustainability challenges, the path towards a solution starts with a better understanding of the issues. To this end the FSLCI convened more than 30 key experts from the life cycle and marine litter community together with RICV from 22. – 23. May at the European Commission in Brussels to discuss, how to address marine litter within LCA. The workshop was organized as a follow-up action to the Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management, jointly launched last year by FSLCI and RICV, which highlighted that LCA, as one of the most widely used sustainability assessment tools for greening the economy, is currently not adequately addressing the impacts on the environment generated due to marine debris, such as plastics and microplastics.

In line with the Call for Action by the UN Ocean Conference the workshop was organized as a first step to connect different expert communities and share and exchange knowledge to generate a better understanding of the topic and assessment methods. Thanks to the kind financial support from Plastics Europe and Braskem, experts from the USA, South Africa, Latin America and Europe came together to work throughout two intense days on identifying major opportunities and challenges in incorporating the issue of marine litter into LCA. After all, incorporating marine litter into LCA could be a way to decrease marine litter in the long run and provide decision-makers with a better decision-making basis.

During both days a combination of input talks and interactive workshop sessions enabled participants to work in an interdisciplinary setting aimed to establish new links and relationships for future joint work. During the first day the workshop focussed on the inventory side and thus participants discussed where marine litter is coming from, why it ends up in the water and which products / materials are most critical. During the second day discussions focussed on impact pathways, which impacts are caused, where more research is needed as well as how to account for the environmental inventory interventions / emissions within LCA.

Workshop participants concluded that there is a huge urgency to address the issue and recognized that a number of positive initiatives are already under way which should be supported in going forward. They also agreed to establish a working group on Marine Litter and LCA with the objective to remain in touch and share information and progress under the leadership of the FSLCI. The working group will be chaired by Dr. Ian Vázquez Rowe who will also oversee the development of a comprehensive workshop report which will be drafted together with workshop participants and officially launched during the Life Cycle Innovation Conference at the end of August 2018 in Berlin.

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