Plastic waste that ends up in the oceans as marine litter is a tangible and urgent environmental pressure reaching even the most remote parts of the global oceans. It impacts marine life from plankton to whales and turtles to albatrosses. Public awareness on how the modern lifestyle and the use of plastics in all sectors of society has influenced the marine ecosystems in the last decades is growing, and an emerging discourse about countermeasures of all types can be seen in policies enacted by authorities in national, regional, and international policy arenas. Different coastal areas have launched Regional Action Plans (RAP) on marine litter that provide structured measures that need to be taken and general advice adapted to the respective region. However, the scale of the problem is not only global in dimension, it also cuts across all sectors in society, and until the use of materials in society becomes sustainable, plastic waste will continue to flow into the seas. This report focuses on how marine plastic litter affects Small Island Developing States (SIDS) because these are considered to be more directly vulnerable to environmental changes, including marine litter, than other countries.
This report was commissioned by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water management and written by analysts at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment (affiliated with the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, and Chalmers University of Technology). In this report, it is documented how marine plastic litter reaches even the most remote parts of the oceans, such as Small Island Developing States, and how SIDS are especially vulnerable to environmental impacts such as climate change and marine litter. The origin and composition of marine plastic litter and its environmental and economic impacts are described. Finally, measures are discussed that can be launched to mitigate the problem, both from state agencies and private corporations. Here, measures from existing RAPs on marine litter are reviewed and examples of private initiatives are mentioned. Further, the corresponding legal framework is given and side effects of marine litter measures on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN are debated.