STAP emphasizes the importance of supporting innovation in alternatives to plastics to combat marine debris problem

STAP attended two days of the Seventeenth Meeting of the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP-17) which convened at the UN Headquarters in New York from 13-17 June 2016. The meeting brought together representatives from governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions to examine the topic of marine debris, plastics and microplastics.  Lev Neretin, of the STAP Secretariat, and Daniela Russo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Think Beyond Plastic, addressed the ICP-17 at a side event co-organized by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and UNEP, entitled “Marine debris, plastics and microplastics: global lessons and priorities for policy change and on-the-ground action”. Both presentations emphasized the importance and global potential for material, manufacturing and design innovations aimed at developing green chemistry alternatives to traditional fossil-fuel based plastics.

The ICP-17 provided a global multi-stakeholder platform for discussion on the challenges, lessons learned, and good practices to prevent, reduce, and mitigate pollution from marine debris, both on land and in the sea. Meeting participants acknowledged that there are remaining knowledge gaps on the sources and fate of marine plastics (such as the lack of standardized, regularized and systematic global monitoring and assessment of its sources and patterns; the lack of broader study of the impacts of plastic ingestion on health of marine animals and on marine biodiversity in general; and the dearth of studies of how the ingestion of plastics and microplastics by fish and shellfish may affect the food supply and human health). Notwithstanding these important knowledge gaps, globally coordinated and urgent precautionary action on marine debris is warranted, as also reflected in the respective resolution on marine plastic litter and micro-plastics, adopted at the Second United Nations Environment Assembly of the UNEP, “Delivering on the 2030 Agenda”, in May 2016, and the forthcoming decision of the Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD on the impacts of marine debris and anthropogenic underwater noise on marine and coastal biodiversity proposed by the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.