Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project

Sea Garbage Concerning Groups

European protagonists

The German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) is a non-state organisation that works in the general field of environmental protection. In the area of marine protection NABU has made plastic debris one of its main themes. The focus is on specific problems in the North Sea and Baltic, where a large amount of the plastic debris comes from shipping and tourism. Concrete projects include studies on waste management in ports, dialogue events with politicians and industry, litter collection campaigns and monitoring. The initiative “Fishing for Litter” also involves the fishing industry by providing structures that enable fishers to dispose of waste found at sea in the ports free of charge.

Surfrider Foundation Europe
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation that is involved in the protection of the oceans, coastlines, and waves. Originally founded by surfers in Malibu (US), the European group was set up in 1990 in Biarritz (FR). Alongside educational campaigns and public relations work, the “Initiatives Océanes” form an important part of the programme of the Surfrider Foundation Europe. Within this framework annual clean-ups are carried out on beaches and in seas throughout Europe. The individual actions are regionally organised. All those who want to join can take part.

Expédition MED
The research initiative Expédition MED, which was launched in 2010, battles on behalf of biodiversity and clean water in the Mediterranean region. During research expeditions, data are collected and evaluated in order to determine the level of pollution of the Mediterranean. This research work is accompanied by an extensive educational programme. In addition, the Expédition MED with its initiative “One Million clicks to save the Mediterranean” collects signatures for a petition to be submitted to the European Parliament. Among the demands are stricter directives for packaging and a comprehensive European educational campaign to deal with the problem of plastic waste.

The Geneva-based non-profit organisation Oceaneye researches in the area of marine pollution caused by micro- and macro-plastic. During annual research expeditions in the Mediterranean or the South Atlantic data are collected, and evaluated in collaboration with the EPF Lausanne. The data obtained is used to demonstrate to decision-makers the need to take action. A further aim is to develop awareness of the problem among the general public.

International protagonists

Algalita Marine Research Foundation
The organisation Algalita was founded in California in 1994 by Captain Charles Moore. Its original goal was to save kelp forests off the Californian coast. With Moore’s discovery of what is today known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" in 1997, the focus changed radically. Today this independent non-profit foundation is devoted to researching plastic pollution and its damaging effects on the marine environment. Charles Moore defines the basic problem as follows: “The basis of the marine food chain is being replaced by an indigestible, non-nutritious material that by now exceeds natural nutrition in terms of weight and amount."

5 Gyres
This Californian NGO has set itself the goal of contributing to the reduction of plastic pollution until there is no more plastic in the oceans. Publications, video messages, website, blogs, lectures and schools and a travelling exhibition all aim at making the general public aware of this problem. Research expeditions are organised together with the partner organisations Pangaea Explorations and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to achieve a better understanding of the nature and effects of the large concentrations of plastic in the five sea gyres and to develop approaches to a solution.

Project AWARE
The foundation Project AWARE unites a worldwide movement of scuba divers who are committed to the protection of the marine environment. Divers from over 180 nations are involved. The focal points of their programme are the protection of threatened species of shark as well as the battle against debris in the sea. In contrast to many other clean-up initiatives, the “Dives against Debris” organised by Project Aware are concentrated on the underwater world. The ultimate goal of these actions is to compile data and to incite action at political level.

Ocean Conservancy
Founded in 1972 in Washington D.C. as the “Center for Environmental Education”, this private non-profit organisation is devoted above all to the protection of the seas. Themes include: clean waters, fish stocks, biodiversity and protected areas. Ocean Conservancy organises the “International Coast Cleanup Day” that is held annually and in 2011 took place for the 25th time. Over 600,000 volunteers from 114 countries removed 3,945 tons of debris from beaches and shores. However, not only waste is collected but also standardised data about the amount and nature of the garbage. The data are evaluated and published in an annual report.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The North American authority NOAA has developed into an important protagonist in questions of plastic pollution of the seas. The NOAA’s strategy plan focuses on the availability and quality of fresh water, the effects of extreme weather phenomena, population pressure on the coasts, accessing and management of marine and coastal resources, and, above all, the profound effects of climate change on society and the environment. Plastic garbage is an important theme in its marine debris programme. In addition to research and publicity work NOAA also works on various projects such as the Marine Debris Tracker App that enables marine waste to be located and reported by GPS.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The environmental programme of the United Nations (UNEP) involves itself in the protection of the seas through a variety of activities. Within the framework of the “Global Initiative on Marine Litter”, attention is also focused on the problem of plastic waste in the seas. This initiative is directed by the coordination office of the Regional Seas Programmes and the Global Programme of Action (GPA). This collaboration has already resulted in numerous publications, cooperative undertakings and campaigns. For example UNEP was one of the organisers of the 5th International Marine Debris Conference. Additionally, strategies are being developed that can be adopted by regional protagonists. In June 2012, UNEP launched the Global Partnership on Marine Litter that aims to implement the Honolulu Strategy in cooperation with the key stakeholders.

5th International Marine Debris Conference

The 5th International Marine Debris Conference was held from 20-25 March 2011 in Honolulu Hawaii. The first four conferences devoted to this theme between 1984 and 2000 had formulated recommendations for further action, which were then implemented in part. Eleven years later, the results of the latest research were compiled and the impact of the measures that had been introduced was examined. This event organised by the NOAA and UNEP was attended by 440 participants from 38 different countries and discussed research results, research methods, and possible approaches to a solution. The conference produced the “Honolulu Commitment” as well as the “Honolulu Strategy”. In the “Honolulu Commitment” twelve measures to reduce the amount of floating debris in the sea are formulated. The Honololu Strategy defined at the conference is intended to serve as an outline global strategy for dealing with, reducing and preventing debris in the sea.

Honolulu Commitment
  1. Make choices that reduce waste in order to halt and reverse the occurrence of marine debris.
  2. Encourage all citizens, industry and governments to take responsibility for their contributions and find solutions to the marine debris problem.
  3. Share openly and freely technical, legal, policy, community-based and economic / market based solutions that will help prevent, reduce and manage marine debris.
  4. Advocate mechanisms that emphasise the prevention or minimisation of waste.
  5. Facilitate initiatives that turn waste into a resource in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  6. Develop global, regional, national and local targets to reduce marine debris.
  7. Improve global knowledge, understanding and monitoring of the scale, nature, source and impact of marine debris, and raise awareness of its impact on public health, biodiversity and economic development.
  8. Collaborate with global, regional and sub-regional organisations to enhance the effectiveness of multi-lateral initiatives aimed at preventing, reducing and managing marine debris.
  9. Encourage financial support for global, regional, national and local actions that contribute to the implementation of the Honolulu Strategy.
  10. Encourage relevant intergovernmental fora, including those at global and regional scales, to express support for the Honolulu Commitment and encourage governments to take action consistent with the objectives and strategic activities outlined in the Honolulu Strategy.
  11. Participate in a global network of stakeholders committed to understanding, preventing, reducing and managing marine debris in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  12. Contribute to the development and successful implementation of the Honolulu Strategy – a framework for the prevention, reduction and management of marine debris – and its periodic review.