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The Transition | February 2022
People and progress in solving the ocean plastic crisis

About OpenOceans Global. Our work centers on mapping ocean plastic, curating the best solutions, and linking together a community of ocean plastic experts and leaders.



Did You Know?

How much plastic has been produced in elephant units?

Large African elephants weigh about 7 metric tons (MT). Since 1950, 9.2 billion MT of plastic have been produced, equal to the weight of 1.3 billion elephants.

Elephants.png“Approximately 9.2 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced since 1950. Only about 30% of these plastics remain in use, resulting in the generation of some 6.9 billion tonnes of primary plastic waste around the world to-date (Geyer, 2020). Of all the plastic discarded so far, some 14% has been incinerated and less than 10% has been recycled. And the remainder? It has either been disposed of in landfills and dumps or released into the environment, including the oceans.”

From Drowning in Plastics, a United Nations Environment Programme publication that provides an overview of the global challenges related to marine litter and plastic waste with graphic illustrations displaying trends, challenges, interlinkages and solutions. Image credit: Jane Wynyard/Save the Elephants.



Taking a Deeper Dive

Nations to Begin Formalizing Global Plastics Treaty

UNEA.pngAfter months of preliminary meetings, formal consideration of a Global Plastics Treaty will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from February 28 to March 2, 2022, when the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) convenes. The Ocean Plastics Leadership Network has been hosting a series of Global Plastic Treaty Dialogues since March 2021. Grid-Arendal, a Norwegian-based partner of the United Nations Environment Program has also hosted a series of weekly webinars called Warm up to UNEA 5.2. A document UNEA published on October 25, 2019, Compilation of United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions on marine litter and microplastics, is a useful reference.

Global Plastics Treaty - the Current Drafts

CIEL EIA 300x200.pngTwo competing drafts will be considered by the United Nations Environment Assembly: the Rwanda-Peru (RP) resolution and the working document from Japan (JP). The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) have joined together to create a Comparison Table on the Potential Resolutions on Plastic Pollution to be Adopted at UNEA 5.2.

The 26-page table outlines the differences between the two drafts. Its complexity shows the challenge of creating an agreement between the member nations. For starters, the JP draft and the RP draft differ on whether to address plastic pollution or marine plastic pollution. The RP draft takes a lifecycle approach to plastic, and the JP draft is more focused on downstream interventions (monitoring discharge in the marine environment, the goal of reducing additional marine plastic pollution by 2050, and national action plans that predominantly contain measures on waste management).



Mapping Plastic-Fouled Coastlines

See more beaches fouled by plastic on our ocean plastic trash map.

Coastal Hotspot: Freedom Island - Manila Bay

Freedom Island 300x200.pngFreedom Island has been listed as one of the worst beaches in the world. The volume and persistence of plastic debris is hard to fathom. One cleanup in Manila Bay between January and May 2019 took 400 truckloads — or more than 100,000 cubic feet — of trash from this “infamously befouled area.” On Freedom Island, cheap, disposable plastic routinely washes ashore. The situation affects not only tourists, but also local wildlife. The island contains a mangrove forest and swamps, providing habitat for many migratory bird species to the extent it was listed as a “critical habitat” in 2017. An estimated 36% of the world’s river-borne macro plastic reaches the ocean from the Philippines. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.




See more solutions on our ocean plastic solutions page. Have a solution we should know about? Submit it here.

Category: Ocean Plastic Visualizations - World's Ocean Litter

Florida State University Visualization 300x200.pngBeing able to visualize how plastic travels throughout the ocean is critical to understanding the problem. The World's Ocean Litter site, developed by Florida State University's Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, provides a dynamic display of marine litter trajectories in the ocean and statistics of the litter generated and received by each country. Viewers can watch over time as the currents move plastic around the global oceans. The World's Ocean Litter Model uses a state-of-the-art Lagrangian ocean analysis framework to create customizable particle tracking simulation using outputs from ocean circulation models. This is one of several visualization tools available in the solutions section of OpenOcean Global’s website. Image Credit: Florida State University.



Meet the Experts and Leaders

OpenOceans Global is identifying ocean plastic experts from around the world. Here are two women leading efforts to reduce plastic pollution that you should know about.

Jenna Jambeck, University of Georgia

Jenna Jambeck2.pngDr. Jenna Jambeck is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA) and Lead of the Circular Informatics Lab in the New Materials Institute at UGA. From 2018 to 2021 she was a National Geographic Fellow and co-lead of the Sea to Source Expedition: Ganges. She has been conducting research on solid waste issues for more than 25 years with related projects on marine debris and plastic pollution since 2001. She also specializes in global waste management issues and plastic contamination. Her work on plastic waste inputs into the ocean has been recognized by the global community and translated into policy discussions by the High Level Panel for the Ocean, in testimony to U.S. Congress, in G7 and G20 Declarations, and the United Nations Environment Programme. She conducts public environmental diplomacy as an International Informational Speaker for the U.S. Department of State. In 2014, she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with 13 other women in eXXpedition to sample land and open ocean plastic and encourage women to enter STEM disciplines. She is co-developer of the Marine Debris Tracker, a mobile app and global citizen science initiative that has documented the location of over five million litter and marine debris items removed from the environment. Follow her work on Twitter @JambeckResearch and @DebrisTracker. Image credit: Sara Hylton/UGA

Heidi Savelli, United Nations Environment Programme

Heidi Savelli 300x200.pngHeidi Savelli is the Marine Litter Programme Officer at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi. She coordinates UNEP's marine litter and plastic pollution activities within the framework of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the Global Programme of Action. Its main goal is to facilitate coordination of action and collaboration amongst actors and protect human health and the global environment by the reduction and management of marine litter and plastic pollution. Specific objectives include: reducing the impacts of marine litter and plastic pollution worldwide on economies, ecosystem, animal welfare and human health; and enhancing international cooperation and coordination. The GPML Digital Platform is a partly open-source, multi-stakeholder platform that compiles different resources, connects stakeholders, and integrates data to guide action towards the long-term elimination of marine litter and plastic pollution. Savelli has worked in coastal and marine management for 20 years, with a focus on land-based sources of pollution, protected areas and wildlife, communication, education, and awareness. She is an ecotoxicologist by training with an MSc in Biology from Lund University in Sweden. Image credit: Franz Dejon.



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