- Scientific research
- Research in international law, intergovernmental organisations and policy
- Brunei Darussalam
- Lao People’s Democratic Republic
- Viet Nam
- People’s Republic of China
- Republic of Korea
- Regional summary
- The United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
- Ad Hoc OpenEnded Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- Plastic pollution from shipping activities at the IMO
- Dumping of waste at sea (LC/LP)
- Toxic contaminants: Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions
- FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI)
- INTERPOL: Illegal trade of plastic
- Other UN organisations and global intergovernmental bodies involved in marine plastics research
- Chart of global and regional intergovernmental bodies
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA)
- Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)
- AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
- Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTICFF)
- Regional foreign bodies (APFIC & SEAFDEC)
- Comparative analysis
- World Bank
- Support to ASEAN states provided by the Commonwealth
- Asian Development Bank (ADB)
- Norwegian public funding agencies: NIVA & NORAD
- Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
- Global hybrid partnership with international organisations
- Organised and sustained international cleanup – civil society
- Visible scientific research institutions and efforts
- Publicprivate and privatedominated partnerships
- Comparative analysis
As a university-level research institutions, CIL undertakes interdisciplinary research projects on ocean issues, especially on the marine environment. These projects are led by Senior Research Fellow Youna Lyons from the Ocean Law and Policy team and involve multi-disciplinary teams and expertise from other research centres from NUS and outside.
Past special projects in international law include transboundary pollution and best treaty practice.
The Ocean Law and Policy Programme has been engaged in the study of the international and regional governance of pollution from marine plastics since 2016. Our work has been supported by several project grants including from the Singapore Maritime Institute, the High Commission of the United Kingdom to Singapore, and the United Nations Environment Programme through the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA).
This work involves the participation of the Centre for International Law in working groups and correspondence groups on marine plastics organized under the auspices of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Conference of the Parties to the London Convention and its Protocol and its Scientific Group, as well as the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHOEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics. Youna LYONS, CIL Senior Research Fellow, has been nominated by Singapore Government as scientific expert in the Scientific Advising Group to this AHOEG.
Thus far, the multi-disciplinary team has carried out the following activities on pollution from marine plastics in the seas of East Asia:
- A 2020 report on “Status of Research, Legal and Policy Efforts on Marine Plastics in ASEAN+3: A Gap Analysis at the Interface of Science, Law and Policy”, written in collaboration with COBSEA, with support from the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the SEA circular project implemented by COBSEA and the United Nations Environment Programme. This report was prepared with the aim of supporting and strengthening marine litter research and informing more robust policy making, in line with applicable regional frameworks on marine litter.
- The co-organising of two sessions on “Understanding the Science and Governance of Pollution of Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia” at the SEA of Solutions conference in November 2019, which was organised by the UN Environment in Bangkok, Thailand. Click here for more information on this event.
- A 2019 report on “A Review of Research on Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia: Who Does What?”, written in partnership with St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory and the Tropical Marine Science Institute. The study was funded by the Government of the United Kingdom and supported by the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS), which participates as an observer to working groups on marine plastics at the MEPC to the IMP, and at the Conference of the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol.
Database of Research, Legal and Policy Efforts on Pollution from Marine Plastics in ASEAN+3
NUS and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), have conducted a comprehensive review of nearly 400 scientific publications on marine plastic pollution in 13 countries in South East and East Asia as well as legal and policy efforts by global and regional bodies and initiatives. The review includes a comprehensive report of published plastic pollution research, policies and initiatives in ASEAN+3 as well as a searchable database of research and a series of graphics. It is the first review and database of its kind for the region.
The study, “Status of Research, Legal and Policy Efforts on Marine Plastics in ASEAN+3: A Gap Analysis at the Interface of Science, Law and Policy”, builds upon an earlier study by Lyons, Su and Neo (2019) titled “A review of research on marine plastics in Southeast Asia: Who does what?” which focused on ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). This new study provides an updated review and extends the geographic scope to three neighbouring Asian countries: the People’s Republic of China (China), Japan, and the Republic of Korea (Korea). They are referred to together as ASEAN+3. The study is divided into two parts.
Part 1 focuses first on the status of scientific research on and understanding of pollution from marine plastics in ASEAN+3, including a regional summary of status. Second, it reviews and discusses the mandates, approach and status of work by international and regional intergovernmental bodies as well as relevant regional public-private and fully private initiatives that seek to combat pollution from marine plastics.
Part 2 is a gap analysis between scientific research and information needs for policy-making purposes, with a particular focus on the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) of the Coordinating Body of the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) whilst considering also the work of other regional bodies. This part also discusses regulatory approaches and obstacles to combat pollution from marine plastic based on four reviews on this. Recommendations on research needed and ways to improve the science-policy-law interface are provided at the end.
This study was prepared by a research team from several research centres at the National University of Singapore (NUS) under the coordination of the Centre for International Law (CIL), support from the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the SEA circular project implemented by COBSEA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as support by the Singapore Maritime Institute under CIL-MPA Oceans Governance Research Programme – Project ID SMI-2019-MA-03. The report was prepared with the aim of supporting and strengthening marine litter research and informing more robust policy making, in line with the COBSEA Regional Action on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) and other regional actions plans applicable in ASEAN+3.
Search by Keywords
Countries Findings of Scientific Review Global Bodies and Instruments Regional Bodies, Instruments and Programmes Funding Organisations to the Region Other Notable Partnerships Regional Frameworks of Action Overall Findings and Recommendations
- Abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG)
- Ecological and environmental impacts
- Main research players
- Marine environs sampled
- Methodologies used
- Plastic-associated contaminants (scientific research)
- Research focus
- Social perception
- Types of plastics research
- Regional summary of scientific research
- Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics
- Basel Convention
- Clean Seas
- Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
- FAO Committee on Fisheries
- Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP)
- Group of Seven (G7)
- Group of Twenty (G20)
- Global Environment Facility (GEF)
- Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML)
- Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA)
- International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL)
- International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
- London Convention and Protocol (LC/LP)
- Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions
- The Plastic Waste Partnership
- Triple Conference of Parties (COP)
- UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- UN Development Programme (UNDP)
- UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)
- UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
- World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)
- Chart of global and regional intergovernmental bodies
- Comparison of work across international organisations
- Archipelagic and Islands Forum (AIS Forum)
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- ASEAN working groups and centres
- ASEAN-Plus initiatives
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
- Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC)
- Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA)
- Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF)
- Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)
- Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI)
- SEA circular
- Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC)
- Sub-commission for the Western Pacific of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-WESTPAC)
- Chart of global and regional intergovernmental bodies
- Comparison of work across ASEAN bodies
- Comparison of work across regional bodies
- Addressing Marine Plastics: A Systemic Approach (AMPSA)
- Circulate Capital
- Fauna and Flora International (FFI): Marine Plastics Programme
- Food Industry Asia
- GA Circular
- Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI)
- Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP)
- IUCN: Close the Plastic Tap Programme
- New Plastics Economy – Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- Ocean Conservancy
- Ocean Plastics Charter
- Project AWARE
- Scientific research institutions (visible efforts)
- The Alliance to End Plastic Waste
- The Circulate Initiative
- The Ocean Cleanup
- Trash Hero
Scope and Content
The scope of this study is pollution from marine plastic in Southeast Asia and East Asia, with a focus on the 13 member states of ASEAN+3: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam (Vietnam), plus The People’s Republic of China (China), Japan and The Republic of Korea (RO Korea)
The objective is to provide a comprehensive review of the current knowledge and scientific research on pollution from marine plastics in ASEAN+3, as well as the approaches and work streams on this topic by international and regional intergovernmental bodies and initiatives that have a relevant mandate or scope in this sphere. The study is divided into two main parts.
Part 1 focuses first on reviewing the status of scientific research on pollution from marine plastics in ASEAN+3. It includes an overall regional summary of this status and an analysis of the findings. Second, it reviews and discusses the mandates, approaches and status of work by international and regional intergovernmental bodies, as well as relevant regional public-private and fully-private initiatives that seek to combat pollution from marine plastics.
Part 2 is a gap analysis between the scientific research and the information needs for policy-making purposes, with a focus on the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) of the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris (FAMAD). The work of other regional bodies is also considered. This part also discusses regulatory approaches and obstacles to combat pollution from marine plastics based on four previous reviews. Recommendations on research needed and ways to improve the science-policy-law interface are provided at the end.
Findings in Scientific Research
This study includes a stock-taking inventory of 371 scientific publications on pollution from marine plastics in ASEAN+3 from 2001 to 2019. The inventory is publicly available online at https://cutt.ly/kstW1Qy.
Of these publications, 145 are from ASEAN countries and the remaining 226 are from the three East Asian countries. Scientific research in marine plastics is an important and ongoing effort within ASEAN+3, particularly as most of the 145 research papers from the ASEAN countries were published from 2017 onwards. However, an analysis and comparison of the scientific research reveals a more nuanced picture. First, only RO Korea and Japan have published research in the full range of possible research areas. They both have publications in all 10 of the research clusters identified in this report. Second, China, Indonesia and Malaysia follow closely with nine out of 10 research clusters, although China has substantially more publications than the other two states. Finally, over the years, research foci on marine plastics in China, Japan and RO Korea have expanded from examining the distribution and presence of plastic debris in the environment and within organisms, to investigating the impacts of plastics in organisms through experiments and predictive models to improve environmental monitoring.
Of the 10 research clusters reviewed, the weakest research clusters relate to:
- the interactions of plastics with the marine environment, such as the impacts of plastic-associated (organic and inorganic) contaminants to the marine environment and organisms;
- social perceptions and behaviour in the context of measures to combat pollution from marine plastics;
- fragmentation, degradation patterns, behaviour and transport of plastic particles; and,
- contribution of plastics from marine fisheries (including ALDFGs) as well as other sea-based sources of pollution (including shipping and offshore installations).
Specific gaps within research clusters are:
- a lack of baseline on the distribution and abundance of plastic debris on the seabed and in the subsoil at the regional scale, including a lack of understanding of sources and pathways;
- plastic polymer-specific research (e.g. PP, PE, EPS, PET) based on their presence in the marine environment, and potential biological toxicity to marine biota;
- research on ecological and environmental impacts such as the physical and physiological impacts of marine debris in biota and marine habitats, including uptake and accumulation in the organisms’ bodies (e.g. respiratory and branchial systems), transfer of plastic particle through the food chain;
- research on microbial assemblages found on plastic debris in biota; as well as
- research on socio-economic impacts such as human health, food safety, and economic loss to quantitatively assess socio-economic costs due to marine plastic pollution in local communities.
Findings in the Work of Governmental Institutions and Other Initiatives
This study also analysed the work of seven global bodies or regimes that have a particular interest in marine plastic pollution. Three of these international bodies/regimes stood out with their interest in most research topics considered: UNEA and UNEP; the LC/LP, the body in charge of regulating disposal of waste at sea; and GESAMP, a UN research body. The critical work undertaken under the auspices of the Basel Convention to combat marine plastic pollution would therefore benefit from greater cooperation and outreach with these bodies at global and regional levels.
At regional level, five regional bodies that include different combinations of most of the ASEAN+3 countries are engaged in combatting pollution from marine plastics: the ASEAN, ASEAN+3, EAS (the East Asia Summit), COBSEA and APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). The extent to which on-going research efforts are sufficient to support the work of these bodies as well as approaches to ensure mutually supporting efforts are included in the gap analysis and in the recommendations.
Gap Analysis at Regional Level
Whilst ongoing research is providing critical information to inform the work of intergovernmental bodies, as well as to engage other public or private initiatives involved in addressing pollution from marine plastics, there are several factors that limit the guidance that this research can provide to the identification of specific response measures:
1. Scientific uncertainty and risk assessment
Whilst understanding of exposure and ingestion of plastic has progressed greatly, there remains areas of uncertainty that limit the clarity needed by governments to adopt effective measures. This includes in particular, an understanding with sufficient granularity of:
1. The status of plastic pollution in the marine environment with adequate baselines in different environs and at a scale where policy measures can be adopted;
2. The transformation and fate of plastic particles in the marine environment (i.e. degradation, fragmentation, transport, sinking rate, etc);
3. Presence and persistence of different polymers in the marine environment and their toxicity to human health and marine ecosystems, including through associated organic and inorganic contaminants. Areas that need further research include the understanding of uptake by marine organisms through other paths than ingestion, experimental studies of physiochemical impacts, relative exposure of different species and ecosystems to entanglements, composition of microbial assemblages and tropic transfer; and
4. Different sources and pathways of plastic debris into the marine environment which are likely to be specific to activity and geography in order to adopt activity-specific measures and regulations that may be effective in decreasing input of marine plastics.
2. Priority in waste management: Closing the tap
The global discourse on combatting plastic pollution emphasises the development of a circular economy in order to reduce the production of plastic that may reach the natural environment. It is a mid- to long-term goal that all the UN documents emphasise and most agree on, even if as a conceptual goal. Whilst regional instruments also refer to the development of a circular economy, specific actions within these instruments focus instead on waste management, an immediate concern for most countries in SEA. Consistently, this report highlights the general focus of ASEAN+3 countries on waste management and their timid steps towards an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach which would make producers responsible for the full management of their project’s life cycle.
The EPR measures adopted to date focus on involving private actors in the management of the post-use of the products distributed by them to consumers. Further elaboration of the components of a circular economy in SEA is necessary before specific measures can be effectively adopted on this path. This should include shared and agreed definitions of the meaning of biodegradability in the context of plastic materials, as well as their recyclability. Research and development in waste management, low cost-low and technology recycling technologies, biodegradability and new plastics are therefore critical. In this context, the clean-up measures highlighted in several regional action plans appear realistic and necessary until waste management measures become effective.
3. Research and protocol fragmentation
COBSEA RAP MALI and ASEAN FAMAD include the development of several guidelines, standards and national reporting with a coordinated approach. Common objectives include the development of regional guidance for the monitoring of marine plastic pollution and for standardised methods. The ASEAN FAMAD also proposes the development of baselines for pollution from marine plastics. As a number of guidelines and protocols are being used in ASEAN+3 that suit different context and available technologies, research on comparable measures and/or bioindicators would be useful for that purpose.
The number of articles in ASEAN+3 that discuss methodologies and surveys (66%) suggests that the region is ready to develop its own adequate standardised methodology or a set of methodologies that result in comparable measures of marine plastic pollution. Importantly, such methodologies should have both a scientific and a policy-making aim and build on existing guidelines such as those from GESAMP and IOC WESTPAC. For such standardized methodologies to be commonly used by scientists, they have to be vetted by the specialised research community of the region on this subject area, which means that they would have to be developed in consultation with both the scientific community and governments. Similarly, research could better inform national policy through improved communication channels between both spheres of work (research and governance/policy), whether directly or through regional organisations. Finally, buy-in of other relevant stakeholders is also critical to ensure implementation of policy. This suggests the need for further research cooperation that integrates public, civil society and private efforts. An example of this is the SEA of Solutions held at the UN regional headquarters in Bangkok in October 2019.
A dominating feature of this study is the multi-layered complexity of the issues raised by pollution from marine plastics globally, as well as at regional level, in ASEAN+3. This complexity includes 1) the number of intergovernmental institutions involved and the resulting fragmentation of the governance framework (if not conceptually, at least at human level), 2) the diversity of stakeholder groups, and 3) unresolved scientific questions and risk assessment of the impact of marine plastics on human health and on marine ecosystems. Recommendations are divided into four axes of work:
1. Substantive issues in need of further research
This is a summary of the most pressing research needs according to this study:
- Risk assessment approach to characterising the magnitude of the risk
- Standardisation of definitions for plastic products and biodegradability
- Sources and pathways into the marine environment, including the determination of criteria or guidelines for the identification of hotspots where clean-up may be considered and identification of prevalent land-based and sea-based sources of plastics
- Persistence, transformation, transport and fate in the marine environment, including a mapping of the behaviour, transport and fate of plastic particles in the marine environment as well as exposure and vulnerability of marine areas and resources of particular ecological, social or economic value
- Regional baseline and monitoring with standardised or comparable measures that include microplastics in the water-column, seabed and subsoil and sensitive habitats
- Progress on the understanding of impact on marine ecosystems and on human health, possibly through measures of exposure and magnitude of the risk
2. Research development and coordination aimed at coordinating among stakeholder groups to further develop and consolidate a multi-disciplinary regional expert community, knowledge management and data sharing, as well as stakeholder engagement and consultation.
Research centres from ASEAN+3 that are engaged in supporting the East Asian Seas Regional Node of the GPML regional node could function as an organisational backbone of this network of regional experts. The agenda of this network of exchange would be focusing on addressing concerns and priorities highlighted by COBSEA WGML, taking into account the ASEAN’s action plan and priorities in order to ensure consistency and mutual benefits for the region.
The research inventory established through this study for the region and made available online on the website of NUS Centre for International Law will be maintained to be used as a first regional database for knowledge management and transfer. It has been developed to be further enriched and updated over time.
3. Cooperation bridges between relevant intergovernmental institutions and with regional experts to develop guidelines and standardised definitions and procedures that may be used consistently throughout the region. Activities shared across regional bodies and open fora such as those that COBSEA may organise in the context of the GMPL may be leveraged for this purpose. In particular, mechanisms of exchange need to be developed between the ASEAN and ASEAN+ and COBSEA. Coordination with the EAS and APEC is also advised in order to synergise efforts and optimise resources.
4. Develop context-specific outreach and education to ensure effective transfer of relevant knowledge and capacity building in local coastal communities, as well as more generally, plastic producers, retailers and users.
Such transfer requires further research on social perception of pollution from marine plastics to improve the understanding of the readiness of relevant communities and stakeholder groups to embrace new measures, the barriers that may be encountered and the threshold of acceptability of different types of measures. Findings from research on these issues would usefully inform realistic and effective policy-making at local and national level. It would also be valuable to inform regional policy-making (in regional bodies) and support the taking into account commonalities and differences.
Part 1 - Status of Research
SECTION 1 – Methodology
- Overall geographic scope
- Scientific research
- Research in international law, intergovernmental organisations and governance of pollution from marine plastic
- Gap analysis
SECTION 2 – Marine Plastic Research in ASEAN+3 Member States
Summary of research topics: Two published peer-reviewed papers relevant to marine plastics could be found for Brunei Darussalam, but they refer to the same study with a more detailed discussion in the most recent article. The research topic of the study was focused on surveying and monitoring abundance and types of micro- and macro-plastics in selected riverine and coastal beaches of Brunei Darussalam.
Summary of understanding at national level: There has been limited number academic research conducted to understand marine plastic pollution issues in Brunei Darussalam, but the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) has national-level initiatives to tackle plastic waste issues. The studies indicate that most of the marine debris are macroplastics with size >20 mm (61.86%), followed by mega plastics with size >100 mm (22.29%), and hypothesise that they might be from land-based sources with higher flow in wet weather.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring, source differentiation, contribution from rivers; main players
Summary of research topics: The few studies published in Cambodia relate results from surveying and monitoring of pollution from macroplastics in unspecified coastal ecosystem areas.
Summary of understanding at national level: The few studies and news reports have revealed plastic pollution as an emerging issue in the country. However, the level of understanding is limited to some macroplastic abundance in a few areas.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring; main players
Summary of research topics: Published research articles focus mainly on surveying and monitoring, with good coverage of micro- and macro-plastics (including ALDFG) through a combination of sampling, quantification, identification and characterisation methods. Various marine environs where marine plastics can be found have also been examined. The presence of marine plastics in the aquatic environment, downstream impacts in both ecological-environmental and socio-economic, source differentiation, movement and accumulation probabilities are also examined and well-understood.
Summary of understanding at national level: Pollution from marine plastic is a known issue in Indonesia. This awareness has triggered research in various research foci and there is a holistic understanding of the issues raised. Research suggests that mangroves may be a plastic sink and accumulation areas and a greater concentration of microplastics in proximity to human settlements. Packaging was reported as the most common macroplastic across all studies, followed by consumer products, fishing gears and building and construction material. There is experience in source differentiation and pathways at local level as well as coastal communities’ perception and willingness to mitigate pollution from plastic debris. Pollution from organic and inorganic contaminants associated with plastic are understood.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; waste management; guidelines; beach clean-up; national research framework; surveys and monitoring; methodology of monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; contribution from fisheries; ALDFG; contribution from rivers; accumulation zones; hotspots; fragmentation and degradation; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; methodology for marine plastic clean-up; movement of plastics; social perceptions; main players
Summary of research topics: With Lao PDR being inland, there is no research on marine plastic pollution in the country. However, as the Mekong River flows into the South China Sea and through other ASEAN states, their waste management approach is relevant.
Summary of understanding at national level: Plastic pollution appears to have been missed as a priority in the scientific scene.
Keywords/research fields: N.A.
Summary of research topics: A large proportion of peer-reviewed articles focus on the surveying and monitoring of both micro- and macro-plastics in various marine environs and with a geographic coverage of most of the country. Methodologies to monitoring and assessing were examined in few studies, considering the discrepancies seen across studies. Impacts posed by marine plastics were also explored, mainly in marine biota of commercial value and with a potential effect on human health. There have been some attempts at exploring the upstream origin of some marine plastic.
Summary of understanding at national level: Malaysia shows visible research efforts, with 36 literature reviews published, and has a good understanding of marine plastic pollution issues. Local research efforts are visible and active. The focus on surveying and monitoring provides valuable results for both abundance of macroplastic and microplastics. However, polymer types are generally not identified for microplastics, making any hypothesis of progress from macro- to micro-plastic difficult to be investigated. Ingestion by marine life is also explored but not transfer through the food chain, movement of plastic or plastic as a transport vector for its associated contaminants.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; waste management; surveys and monitoring; methodology for the monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; discharge from offshore infrastructures (including aquaculture); ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; movement of plastics; social perceptions; plastics as transport vector; plastic additives; main players
Summary of research topics: The few marine plastic studies published in Myanmar concern four out of 17 research foci. The primary efforts deployed to date concern surveying and monitoring in three marine and riverine habitats (i.e. coastal beaches, upstream river basin and coastal surface waters and in coastal fish).
Summary of understanding at national level: There is a limited understanding of pollution from marine plastic in Myanmar at the national level, with only three research studies with a limited scope. A seminar has been conducted for capacity building in scientific research, including monitoring marine plastic pollution. Also of note is another ongoing surveying and monitoring project of marine plastics in coastal areas.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring; contribution from rivers; main players
Summary of research topics: The majority of studies has focused on ecological and environmental impacts, followed by survey and monitoring to understand pollution status and public outreach/beach clean-up.
Summary of understanding at national level: Marine plastic research in the Philippines appears to be at infancy, with only 14 published studies. Though few, these studies provide some insights to the status of marine plastic pollution in the Philippines, where most of them indicate negative impacts of marine debris on numerous marine taxa groups and environments. Across these studies, varied methodologies have been used in monitoring marine litter in marine biota and environments across the Philippines, thus making it difficult to do direct cross-comparisons.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; guidelines and standards; public outreach; beach clean-up; waste management; national research framework, coordination; surveys and monitoring; contribution from rivers accumulation zones; hotspots; fragmentation and degradation; ecological and environmental impact; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; main players
Summary of research topics: The majority of studies in Singapore focused on ecological and environmental impact, followed by survey and monitoring to understand pollution status and plastics as a transport vector.
Summary of understanding at national level: The body of plastic research in Singapore is still at an early stage with only a few published studies. However, the results from field studies (e.g. ICCS, Project Aware) provide insights into the status of marine plastic pollution in Singapore, with most of them indicating negative impacts of marine debris on numerous marine taxa groups and environments. To date, there is no study examining the sources, accumulation and hotspot areas of marine plastics along Singapore’s coastline.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring; ecological and environmental impact; plastic as transport vector; main players
Summary of research topics:
Summary of understanding at national level:
Summary of research topics: Research on marine plastics in Thailand does not appear to be a main research thrust of any marine laboratory currently. Seven of the eight studies found for this report were conducted since 2016. They focus primarily on survey and monitoring to understand pollution status and on ecological and environmental impact, followed by socio-economic impact.
Summary of understanding at national level: Published articles and reports on pollution from marine plastics may not reflect the understanding of the issue at national level due to unpublished work (in English) by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, including by international coastal cleanups since 2009. Published articles highlight negative impacts of marine plastic debris on several marine taxa groups and all habitats sampled. However, varied methodologies and technologies have been used in monitoring marine litter that only allow a limited understanding of issues. Furthermore, studies of seabed sediments and surface waters are missing, as well as of source differentiation.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring; source differentiation; contribution from fisheries; ALDFG; accumulation zones; hotspots; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; main players
Summary of research topics: Publications on pollution from marine plastics in Vietnam show that the country is at an early stage of research on this topic. The four articles found were published since 2016 and all involved foreign research partners together with local institutions. Despite the relatively small number of publications, these publications cover a large number of research topics, ranging from laws and other national measures to POPs transported and released by marine plastics.
Summary of understanding at national level: Two of the studies focused on the Saigon River and suggested that it would contribute four times more plastic debris to the marine environment than had been estimated in 2017. Resin pellets were also identified as a pathway for POPs. A review also suggested that vessels and fishing gear would be a substantial source of marine debris. However, there is no clear evidence of this. Furthermore, there is no analysis of polymers that compose marine plastic debris, nor of the presence or impact of marine plastics on marine biota, or on the seabed and in seabed sediments.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; surveys and monitoring; methodology for the monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; contribution from rivers; accumulation zones; hotspots; fragmentation and degradation; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; movement of plastics; adsorption-desorption of contaminants; organic contaminants; inorganic contaminants; plastic as transport vector; main players
Summary of research topics: China leads the region in terms of number of research papers on marine plastics (128 peer-reviewed papers published since 2015), which are focused on several topics of interest. There is a particular emphasis on monitoring surveys for microplastics, focused on quantification of microplastics spanning all marine environs including a variety of different habitat types and marine biota. Similarly, studies of ecological and environmental impacts have a particular focus on presence of microplastics, rather than intake/absorption mechanisms and food chain transfer. By contrast, there seems to be little research on macroplastics and their degradation, source differentiation, movement of plastics, accumulation and hotspots, ALDFGs, social perception and socio-economic impacts. Published articles and the number of institutions involved show China’s leading research capacity in plastic research.
Summary of understanding at national level: There appears to have been a near country-wide sampling for marine microplastics abundance in a number of abiotic and biotic environments. These studies include polymer identification as well as associated contaminants. Much of the research is conducted at relatively high levels of technology, particularly evident in the frequent use of spectroscopy and the studies of sorption dynamics of specific chemicals. However, there is still a lack of standardised protocols for detection, sampling and extraction of plastics. The plastic classification system proposed by Wang et al. (2019) may be useful on this path of harmonisation or consistency in preferred sampling protocols.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; upstream research; waste management; surveys and monitoring; methodology for the monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; contribution from fisheries; ALDFG; accumulation zones; hotspots; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; adsorption-desorption of contaminants; organic contaminants; inorganic contaminants; plastics as transport vector; plastic additives; heavy metals; main players
Summary of research topics: RO Korea has acknowledged issues linked to pollution from marine plastic and surveyed marine debris since the 1990s. However, scientific research papers on the topic were only published after 2000 and mostly since 2014. Early publications focused specifically on pollution from EPS (styrofoam) buoys used in mariculture. Studies from RO Korea covered the most number of research foci among the ASEAN+3 countries, and had the most balanced representation of different research foci. A majority of the papers examined (n=67) focused on surveys and monitoring to understand pollution status, followed by plastics as a transport vector, and other contaminants associated with marine plastics (especially HBCD and PCB). However, there is a lack of research and consistent methodology to survey macroplastics found in the water column, on or in the seabed and coastal environments other than sandy beaches (e.g. mudflats).
Summary of understanding at national level: Plastic pollution research is concentrated mostly on sandy beaches and near-coastal sea surface, with a particular focus on the region of Geoje Island and the Nakdong River. Several surveys advance beyond inventorying and compare plastic abundances and composition within their environ, leading to a more specific understanding of the distribution and accumulation of plastic debris. ALDFGs are the subject of a number of papers which suggest that they represent a very substantial contribution of marine plastic debris. Another finding is that concentration in HBCD would be greater in sediments close to industrialised areas and EPS buoys (such as those used in aquaculture farms). Several articles highlighted a strong interest to and proposal for improving methodologies for sampling and research on marine plastics. Several papers stand out as they focused on marine plastic clean-up operations on the seabed and in the water column. However, they focus primarily on the cost-effectiveness of existing methods without an analysis of net ecological benefit or relative benefits of different removal methods.
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; public outreach; beach clean-up; waste management; surveys and monitoring; methodology for the monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; fibreglass-reinforced plastic vessels; contribution from fisheries; ALDFG; contribution from rivers; accumulation zones; hotspots; fragmentation and degradation; ecological and environmental impact; socio-economic impact; methodology for marine plastic clean-up; movement of plastics; social perceptions; adsorption-desorption of contaminants; organic contaminants; inorganic contaminants; plastics as transport vector; plastic additives; heavy metals; main players
Summary of research topics: Japan’s research effort on marine plastics is notable for its early start in 2001 and its breadth across research topics covering most aspects of pollution by plastics. Some of the research requires a more technical understanding and advanced research material (i.e. plastic as a transport vector, and plastic adsorption/desorption experiments). All environs are also being investigated, including a few studies on the deep seafloor and deep-sea organisms. More than half of the articles published seek to quantify the presence and abundance of marine plastic debris. The second most common research focus is ecological and environmental impacts, with a primary interest in ingestion of macro- and microplastics by various marine life, including seabirds, fish, and shellfish.
Summary of understanding at national level: For most of the microplastics studies published, the studies distinguish the types of plastic polymers and the shapes of plastics (i.e. fragments, microbeads, pellets, etc.), as well as specific ecological and environmental impacts. However, there is limited polymer-specific research investigating the extent of polymer-types fragmentation and degradation in the marine environment. Nearly one-third of the papers focus on marine plastics as a pathway for pollution by other organic substances or by inorganic contaminants (e.g. POPs and heavy metals). Dominant sources of marine plastics appear to be ALDFGs, rivers, land runoffs and untreated sewers. Other sources mentioned are the unintentional release to the environment of resin pellets during manufacturing and transport, as well as plastic fragments from nearby large ocean basins. No investigation on plastic transfer through the food chain has been found, nor article on the physical impacts of macroplastics on marine life such as endangered migratory species (e.g. whales, sea turtles and seabirds).
Keywords/research fields: National approach; solid waste; trade of plastic waste; research foci; marine environs; laws and administrative measures; public outreach; beach clean-up; waste management; surveys and monitoring; methodology for the monitoring and assessment of marine litter; source differentiation; contribution from fisheries; ALDFG; contribution from rivers; accumulation zones; hotspots; fragmentation and degradation; ecological and environmental impact; movement of plastics; adsorption-desorption of contaminants; organic contaminants; inorganic contaminants; plastics as transport vector; plastic additives; main players
SECTION 3 – Global intergovernmental and/or institutional policy frameworks, guidelines and initiatives relevant to Southeast Asia
Summary of role: Often referred to as the constitution for the oceans, UNCLOS is a comprehensive and near universal treaty. It is not the only treaty that applies to pollution of the sea and the protection of the marine environment, but it is the only one which is intended to regulate all activities at sea. UNCLOS includes both provisions that are directly implementable by states and framework provisions that require agreement and formulation of further regulations, measures, standards and procedures at international, regional and/or national levels. With 168 state parties, UNCLOS is near universal.
Scope and work: UNCLOS covers land-based pollution as well as all activities at sea. In the absence of a COP for UNCLOS, implementation work on pollution from plastic is handled by relevant competent organisations such as UNEA, IMO, FAO, COP to the London Convention and Protocol, etc.
Keywords/research field: UNCLOS; land-based pollution; sea-based pollution; pollution from shipping; pollution from dumping; pollution from mining; general provisions; obligation of cooperation
Summary of role: UNEA is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. It is also the highest decision-making body with the most general and applied mandate to combat pollution from marine plastic litter and microplastics. Decisions (resolutions, declarations, recommendations and other formal decisions) are made by consensus.
Summary of recommendations and work status: UNEA is driving to strengthen coordination and research capacity for better understanding of sources, pathways and hazards as well as barriers and challenges to actions to combat pollution from marine plastic litter and microplastics. A review is scheduled at UNEA-5 in 2021 of commissioned studies and reports from other bodies.
Keywords/research fields: United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA); The Future We Want; United Nations General Assembly (UNGA); Creation of UNEA; function and mandate; SGD 14; UNEA Resolutions on marine plastic litters and microplastics; UNEA-1, UNEA-2, UNEA-3, UNEA-4
- UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
Summary of role: UN Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinates the United Nations’ environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. UNEP supports global actions on marine plastics litter and microplastics according to the mandate given at UNEA meetings.
Summary of recommendations and work status: UNEP has undertaken various actions to support global actions on marine plastic litter:
- Hosting the global programme of action for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities
- Developing the Global Partnership on Marine Litter initiative (GPML) with other UN Bodies
- Launching the Clean Seas campaign
- Publishing technical guidelines, toolkits and reports on marine litter and microplastics including single-use plastics
Keywords/research fields: UN Environment Programme; UNEP; function and mandate; technical guides; toolkits and reports; Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics: A Global Review of National Laws and Regulations; Combatting marine plastic litter and microplastics: An assessment of the effectiveness of relevant international; regional and subregional governance strategies and approaches; Marine Plastic debris and microplastics – Global lessons and research to inspire action and guide policy change; Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter; Clean Seas; single-use plastics; Global Partnership on Marine Litter; GPML
- GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP ON MARINE LITTER (GMPL)
Summary of role: The Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is a multi-stakeholder partnership of state and non-state actors working to prevent marine litter with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience and advancing solutions to this pressing global issue. Its mission is to protect the global marine environment, human well-being and animal welfare by primarily enhancing international coordination and cooperation to combat the global problem of marine litter.
Summary of work status: A GPML Platform was created to serve as a database on all measures such as treaties, decisions, action plans and projects relating to marine litter worldwide
Keywords/research fields: Global Partnership on Marine Litter; GPML; establishment; Manila Declaration; Honolulu Strategy; objectives; GPML platform; regional node; webinars; online course; training of trainers workshop;
- CLEAN SEAS
Summary of role: Clean Seas is a campaign launched by UNEP with the aim of engaging governments, the general public and the private sector on pollution from marine plastic and develop education and provide outreach on this topic.
Summary of work status: A number of online and in-person training courses
Keywords/research fields: UN Environment Programme; UNEP; Clean Seas; marine litter; establishment; objectives; work in the region; online course
- GLOBAL PROGRAMME OF ACTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT FROM LAND-BASED ACTIVITIES (GPA)
Summary of role: The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) is an intergovernmental mechanism established in 1995 to respond to land-based sources of pollution of the marine environment and includes plastics waste in its scope. It is a voluntary and non-binding programme. An Intergovernmental Review Meeting (IGR) had been organized every 5 years since 2001to review implementation of the GPA
Summary work status: The last IGR, in 2018, resulted in a general agreement on continuing work on enhancing the mainstreaming of the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems, especially from the environmental threats caused by increased nutrients, wastewater, and marine litter and microplastics. The future of the GPA was also discussed and referred to UNEA-4. However, the latter did not make a decision on this. The future of the work of this GPA is therefore unclear.
Keywords/research fields: Function and Mandate; Status of work; 2012 Manila Declaration on Furthering Implementation of the GPA
- AD-HOC OPEN-ENDED EXPERT GROUP (AHEG) ON MARINE LITTER AND MICROPLASTICS
Summary of role: The AHEG was established by the 3rd UNEA (UNEA-3) in 2017 to further examine and report on the barriers to and options for combating marine plastic litter and microplastics from all sources. It is not a decision-making body. Two meetings of the AHEG were held prior to UNEA-4 and a further three meetings before UNEA-5.
Summary of recommendations and work status: The current programme of work of the AHEG, decided by UNEA-4, includes : (i) To take stock of existing activities and action by governments, regional and global instruments, international organisations, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and other relevant contributors to reduce marine plastic litter and microplastics; (ii) To identify technical and financial resources or mechanisms for supporting countries in addressing marine plastic litter and microplastics; (iii) To encourage partnerships that undertake activities such as the development of source inventories, the improvement of waste management, awareness-raising and the promotion of innovation in relation to the prevention of marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastics; and (iv) To analyse the effectiveness of existing and potential response options and activities with regard to marine litter and microplastics at all levels to determine the contribution that they make to solving the global problem.
Keywords/research fields: Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics; Function and mandate; UNEA 3/7; UNEA 4/6; Status of work; Scientific Advisory Committee; barriers to combating marine litter and microplastics; national; regional and international response options; Marine litter; microplastics; stocktaking of existing activities; plastic; effectiveness; response options; partnerships; technical; financial; resources; private sector
Summary of role: IMO is the global regulator of international shipping including disposal of waste from vessels at sea and in port reception facilities as well as other potential disposal of matter or substances from vessels that may contain plastic or other noxious contaminants such as possible additives to plastic. Marine environmental issues, including marine plastic pollution, are dealt with primarily by the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC). Since 2018, marine plastics have become an item under the Agenda of MEPC.
Summary of recommendations and work status: An Action Plan to Address Marine Litter from Ships and a Working Group was established under the MEPC, with measures to be completed by 2025. These include the reduction of marine plastic litter generated by shipping in general, as well as in particular from and retrieved by fishing vessels, effectiveness of port reception facilities and new regulatory measures. The MEPC also agreed on terms of reference of a study group on marine litter from ships, a regulatory framework matrix to identify all international regulatory instruments and best practices associated with the issue of marine plastic litter from ships. The last MEPC meeting mandated a Correspondence Group to develop a strategy to address marine litter from ships for discussion at MEPC75 in March 2020.
Keywords/research fields: International Maritime Organisation (IMO); function and mandate; international shipping; regulatory framework; Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC); MARPOL; work on marine plastic pollution at the MEPC; marine litter from ships; garbage from ships; ALDFG; Action plan to address marine litter from ships; IMO Study on marine plastic litter from ships; correspondence group
Summary of role: The 1972 London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter and its 1996 Protocol (LC/LP) promote effective control and prevention of pollution of the sea by dumping of waste and other matter. Given this mandate, LC/LP also addresses the dumping of plastic waste generated on land or offsfore into the ocean.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Dumping of plastic waste at sea is prohibited under the LC/LP. Additionally, the governing bodies of LC/LP adopted a statement encouraging action to combat marine litter including through the identification and control of marine litter at source and to encourage monitoring, additional study and knowledge-sharing. An inventory on the workstreams carried out under the bodies of LC/LP on the issue of marine litter and microplastics is being developed.
Keywords/research fields: London Convention/Protocol (LC/LP); function and mandate; provisions on plastics and ongoing work on marine plastic; persistent plastics and other persistent synthetic materials; dumping at sea; assessment of wastes proposed for disposal at sea; ongoing work; presence of plastics in the waste streams; recommendation to encourage action to combat marine litter; marine litter; microplastics
- THE BASEL CONVENTION
Summary of role: The Basel Convention regulates the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and other wastes to make such trade operate in accordance with environmentally sound management principles. Until May 2019, as most plastic material was not considered to be hazardous, most trade of plastic scrap and waste could be considered to fall outside the scope of measures. However, the 2019 amendments clarify the scope of plastic wastes presumed to be hazardous and therefore subject to the PIC procedure.
The Base Convention plays a complementary role with that of the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions (see details on these conventions below). Together they provide for regulations on different aspects of the management of environmentally hazardous materials and aim to restrict and control the production, use and trade of hazardous chemicals for production or as waste.
Summary of recommendations and work status: The 2019 amendment come in the context of the strengthening of the joint work programme of the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions which started in 2017 which includes joint effort on hazardous substances from plastic products. This also includes the establishment of a ‘triple COP,’ meaning that meetings of their respective COPs occur concomitantly or jointly for subjects that fall within the scope of each three such as the regulation of hazardous substances associated with plastic products. The Working Group of the Basel Convention Partnership on Plastic Waste was also established in 2019 and its work is ongoing.
Keywords/research fields: Basel Convention; Stockholm Convention; Rotterdam Convention; triple COP; function and mandate; transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their Disposal; persistent organic pollutants; POPs; prior informed consent; PIC; hazardous chemicals; technical guidelines for the identification and environmentally sound management of plastic wastes and for their disposal; plastic waste partnership; adoption of Conventions in ASEAN+3
- THE STOCKHOLM AND ROTTERDAM CONVENTIONS
Summary of role: The Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions provide for regulations to restrict and control the production, use and trade of toxic and hazardous chemicals for production or as waste. The chemicals covered include some of those associated with plastic production, its use and disposal which can be found with marine plastic litter. The Stockholm Convention prohibits, restricts and sometimes aims to eliminate the production, use and import-export of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Annexes A and B list POPs that must be eliminated or restricted. Annex C focuses on the minimisation of releases from unintentional production of chemicals it lists. A number of POPs under the control of the Stockholm Convention are used as additives, flame retardants or plasticizers in plastics, such as BDEs, HCHs, PFOSA, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride. The Rotterdam Convention stipulates a prior informed consent (PIC) mechanism for the international trade of hazardous chemicals. Chemicals that are subject to this procedure are listed in Annex III of the Convention and include some of the chemicals also regulated by the Basel and Stockholm Conventions and associated with the production of plastic products or marine plastic litter (i.e. PCB and DDT).
Summary of recommendations and work status: Since 2017, the COPs of the Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel Conventions have strengthened their joint work programme including joint effort on hazardous substances from plastic products. They also set up a ‘triple COP’ meaning that meetings of their respective COPs occur concomitantly or jointly for subjects that fall within the scope of each three such as the regulation of hazardous substances associated with plastic products. Led to successive amendments to the Conventions resulting in the strengthening of scrutiny and control over plastic wastes, hazardous plastic or plastic-associated substances and their associated chemicals (especially additives and plasticizers). New plastic-related POPs were listed for control in 2018.
Keywords/research fields: Stockholm Convention; Rotterdam Convention; Basel Convention; triple COP; function and mandate;; persistent organic pollutants; POPs; prior informed consent; PIC; hazardous chemicals; technical guidelines for the identification and environmentally sound management of plastic wastes and for their disposal; plastic waste partnership; adoption of Conventions in ASEAN+3
Summary of role: COFI is the subsidiary body of the FAO Council, established at its 13th Meeting in 1965 to the only global intergovernmental forum where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined. Plastics are relevant in the work of COFI in dealing with abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gears (ALDFG).
Summary of recommendations and work status: FAO has undertaken projects and studies on reducing ALDFG and the effects of microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture:
- FAO voluntary guidelines on the marking of fishing gear
- A global feasibility project on the marking of fishing aggregating devices (completed)
- A field project in Indonesia focused on the practical application of gear marking and lost gear retrieval in small-scale coastal fisheries (completed)
- Study on microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture
Keywords/research fields: FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI); function and mandate; work on marine plastics: Abandoned; Lost or Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gears; ALDFG; gear marking; lost gear retrieval; voluntary guidelines; work on marine plastics: microplastics; plastic and microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture; FAO Fisheries Circular 1163; Symposium on Responsible Fishing Technology for Healthy Ecosystems and Clean Environment; FAO study on Microplastics in Fisheries and Aquaculture
Summary of role: The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is an advisory body of experts tasked to provide status of science on specific topics on marine environmental protection through a mandate granted by UN bodies. GESAMP publishes its finding in public reports. Plastics and microplastics in the marine environment have been a topic of study under GESAMP since 2012.
Summary of recommendations and work status: GESAMP has established the Working Group ‘Sources, Fate and Effects of Plastics and Microplastics in the Marine Environment’ in 2012 and produced several reports on pollution from marine debris and microplastic, in particular ‘Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment’ Part 1 (2015) and Part 2 (2016); and ‘Guidelines For the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastic Litter in the Ocean’ (2019).
Keywords/research fields: Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection; GESAMP; function and mandate; environmental assessments; publications; reports; studies; guidelines and workshops; working group (WG 43); GESAMP reports on plastic pollution in the marine environment; working group (WG 40): Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment; Guidelines For the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastic Litter in the Ocean; report: A Global Assessment
Summary of role: International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. INTERPOL provides investigative support, expertise, and training to law enforcement worldwide in battling three major areas of transnational crime: terrorism, cybercrime, and organized crime.
Summary of recommendations and work status: INTERPOL Environmental Security Programme and its Pollution Crime Working Group participate in coordinated global effort in tackling the illegal trade of plastic worldwide through global law enforcement.
Keywords/research fields: International Criminal Police Organisation; INTERPOL; function and mandate; INTERPOL Environmental Security Programme; Pollution Crime Working Group (PCWG); illegal trade of plastic work; work; illegal waste crime, capacity building; Operation 30 days of Action, Operation 30 days at sea
11. Other UN organisations and global intergovernmental bodies involved in combatting pollution from marine plastics
- GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY (GEF)
Summary of role: GEF provides funding for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements. GEF support is provided to government agencies, civil society organisations, private sector companies and research institutions, to implement projects and programmes in recipient countries.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Under the 7th replenishment of the GEF fund, marine litter and microplastics is now a GEF’s focal area.
Keywords/research fields: Global Environment Facility; GEF; funding marine litter and microplastics projects and programmes; GEF Trust Fund; GEF assembly
- G7 AND G20 ACTION PLANS TO COMBAT MARINE LITTER
Summary of role: Group of Seven (G7) is an intergovernmental economic organisation consisting of seven of the largest advanced economies of the world. The organisation regards itself as a “community of values”. An annual Summit is attended by its Members’ Leaders while its Members’ Ministers and civil servants meet throughout the year to discuss issues such as energy policy, climate change, HIV/Aids and global security. Group of Twenty (G20) was founded at the G7 Finance Ministers’ Meeting on 26 September 1999. Its Members are the G7 plus 12 major advanced and emerging economies and the EU. Issues discussed at the G20 focus on shared economic, political and health challenges.
Summary of recommendations and work status: In 2015, the G7 adopted an Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter. In 2017, the G20 also adopted an Action Plan on Marine Litter which is very aligned with the G7 Action Plan. However, the G20 is more active. In 2019, the G20 adopted the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter. It provides G20 Members’ commitments for facilitation and collaborative actions to implement the Action Plan whilst emphasising the importance of UN and other relevant intergovernmental bodies.
Keywords/research fields: Group of Seven; G7; Group of Twenty; G20; Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter; Action Plan on Marine Litter; G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter
- CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Summary of role: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 to achieve three goals, including conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Under the CBD, an expert workshop was organised to prepare practical guidance on preventing and mitigating the significant adverse impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity and habitats in 2014. In 2016, the COP of the CBD acknowledged and urged states to take into account the Voluntary Technical Guidance on Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Marine Debris on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Habitats.
Keywords/research fields: Convention on Biological Diversity; CBD; background and aim; work; expert workshop; preventing and mitigating the significant adverse impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity; report “Marine Debris as a Global Environmental Problem: Introducing a solutions based framework focused on plastic”; workshop; Voluntary Technical Guidance on Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Marine Debris on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Habitats
- THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
Summary of role: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN agency in charge of the eradication of poverty and reduction of inequalities and exclusion. It focuses on implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Summary of recommendations and work status: UNDP supports activities relating to the protection of the marine environment in Southeast and East Asia through and with PEMSEA. UNDP also partners with local actors to promote awareness about plastics such as in Thailand and Cambodia.
Keywords/research fields: United Nations Development Programme; UNDP; background and aim; SGDs; promoting awareness about plastics, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO)
Summary of role: World Health Organisation (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations in charge of international public health. Its objective is the attainment of the highest level of health for all people.
Summary of recommendations and work status: WHO has highlighted pollution from marine plastics and participated in the UN call to “beat plastic pollution” on 2018 World Environment Day. In August 2019, WHO released research results on “Microplastics in drinking water” on the level of microplastics in drinking water
Keywords/research fields: World Health Organisation; WHO; background and aim; public health; marine plastic; beat plastic pollution; microplastics in drinking water
- WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANISATION (WMO)
Summary of role: The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) provides a framework for international cooperation for the development of meteorology, climatology and operational hydrology. Its focused areas include environment, oceans and public health.
Summary of recommendations and work status: In 2018, WMO participated in the UN “beat plastic pollution” campaign.
Keywords/research fields: World Meteorological Organisation; WMO; background and aim; framework for international cooperation; World Environment Day; beat plastic pollution
SECTION 4 – Regional intergovernmental and/or track 1.5 institutional mechanisms, programmes and projects
Summary of role: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organisation that has institutionalised wide-ranging cooperation among the ten Southeast Asian states. The ASEAN also facilitates cooperation between its Member States and extra-regional nations/organisations through its ASEAN-Plus mechanisms such as the ASEAN-China Dialogue Partnership, the ASEAN Plus Three (APT), the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). The issue of marine plastics is addressed by different bodies within each mechanism.
Summary of work: The ASEAN and ASEAN-Plus mechanisms have issued a number of policy statements on marine plastics, including the 2019 Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region, and the 2018 EAS Leaders’ Statement on Combating Marine Plastic Debris. ASEAN and the APT have marine plastic-specific action plans, such as the 2019 Framework of Action on Marine Debris, and the 2019 ASEAN+3 Marine Plastics Debris Cooperative Action Initiative respectively. Generally, these mechanisms recognise that marine plastic pollution is a regional challenge and have facilitated workshops on marine plastics since 2017.
Keywords/research fields: ASEAN; ASEAN-Plus; ASEAN-China dialogue partnership; ASEAN Plus Three; ASEAN-Plus dialogue, East Asia Summit; ASEAN regional forum; initiatives; Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris; Framework of Action for Marine Debris; ASEAN working group on coastal and marine environment; ASEAN Working group on chemicals and waste; ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; ASEAN-EU; EU-ASEAN development cooperation; Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN dialogue instrument; ASEAN+3; Marine Plastics Debris Cooperative Action Initiative; EAS Leaders’ Statement on Combating Marine Plastic Debris, Manila Plan of Action
Summary of role: The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) is a regional intergovernmental forum and decision-making body for policy coordination for the East Asian Seas Action Plan. It comprises nine countries – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, RO Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. The COBSEA Secretariat is hosted by Thailand and administered by UNEP. Key funding support has been provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for the establishment of SEA Circular.
Summary of work: COBSEA has adopted a Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) in 2008 that has been revised in 2019, including the establishment of a Working Group on Marine Litter to guide its implementation. One of the distinctive components of this plan is that it includes the active removal of land-based and sea-based litter rather than being primarily focused on upstream management and future leakages. Other notable components include implementation of international legal instruments, the establishment of a regional expert group, strengthening and harmonisation of monitoring programmes, as well as knowledge sharing, scientific cooperation and outreach.
Keywords/research fields: The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia; COBSEA; function and mandate; East Asian Seas Action Plan; Action against pollution from marine plastics, Regional Action Plan, SEA circular, RAP MALI, Regional Capacity Centre for Clean Seas, Regional Node of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter
Summary of role: The Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) is a partnership arrangement including state and non-state parties, to address the “identified threats to the environment and sustainable development of the Seas of East Asia.”
Combating marine plastics is one of the key areas of work under the Pollution Reduction and Waste Management Programme of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA), PEMSEA’s management framework.
Summary of recommendations and work status: PEMSEA’s 2018-2022 implementation plan uses a source-to-sea approach. A key initiative is the UNDP/GEF Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM). Much of PEMSEA’s work is focused on local governments and communities. In November 2019, the PEMSEA Network of Local Governments (PNLG) announced a Marine Debris Prevention Initiative during the PNLG General Assembly.
Keywords/research fields: Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia; PEMSEA; function and mandate; relevant policy statements; work on marine plastics; Source-to-sea approach; Pollution Reduction and Waste Management; Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia; Integrated River Basin Management; Iloilo Ministerial Declaration; Marine Debris Prevention Initiative; PNLG; Manila Bay Area Integrated Information Management System
Summary of role: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a multilateral trade and economic dialogue forum. It is not intended to formulate binding commitments or treaty obligations. However, guidelines or manuals could be developed by working groups
Summary of work: Numerous projects and workshops have been sponsored and organised by APEC member states on the topic of pollution from marine plastic debris. In 2014, the Xiamen Declaration which encouraged cooperation on the reduction and mitigation of marine pollution, including from land-based sources resulted in the establishment of Virtual Working Group on Sustainable Material Management and Innovative Solutions to the Problem of Marine Debris. In 2019, APEC adopted the 2019 Roadmap on Marine Debris.
Keywords/research fields: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; APEC; function and mandate; Projects; Events; Roadmap on Marine Debris; Xiamen Declaration; Virtual Working Group on Sustainable Material Management and Innovative Solutions to the Problem of Marine Debris (VWG); APEC Workshop on Innovative Marine Debris Solutions; Capacity Building; Compendium of Preventive Measures and Policies; Understanding and Addressing Marine Debris Impact in the APEC Region; Capacity Building on Global Marine Debris Monitoring and Modeling: Supports Protection of the Marine Environment; APEC Marine Debris Management Guidelines; APEC Workshop on Marine Debris and Microplastics; Report on Economic Costs of Marine Debris to APEC Region
Summary of role: The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) is a multilateral partnership of six countries and non-governmental members working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.
Summary of recommendations and work status: CTI-CFF has been focused on beach clean-up, public education and outreach.
Keywords/research fields: Coral Triangle Initiative; CTI-CFF; function and mandate; work on marine plastics; beach clean-ups; public education; outreach; Coral Triangle Day
- ASIA-PACIFIC FISHERIES COMMISSION (APFIC)
Summary of role: The Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) is an Article XIV FAO Regional Fishery Body in charge of promoting the full and proper utilization of living aquatic resources in the Asia-Pacific region.
Summary of work: No work reported on pollution from marine plastics in documents made available online by APFIC
Keywords/research fields: Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission; APFIC; function and mandate
- SOUTHEAST AISAN FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT CENTER (SEAFDEC)
Summary of role: The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC) is an autonomous inter-governmental body established in 1967 to promote and facilitate concerted actions among the Member Countries to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture in Southeast Asia.
Summary of work: SEAFDEC has been studying the presence of microplastics in fisheries products and the loss and discard of fishing gear.
Keywords/research fields: RFB, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre; SEAFDEC; plastic pollution from fisheries; ghost nets; ALDFG;
Summary of role: The Sub-commission for the Western Pacific of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, a UN body (IOC-WESTPAC), is in charge of promoting international cooperation and coordinating programmes in marine research, ocean observations and services, as well as capacity building in the Western Pacific and adjacent seas.
Summary of work: The IOC-WESTPAC has an ongoing project on the distribution, source, fate and impacts of marine microplastics.
Keywords/research fields: IOC-WESTPAC; function and mandate; projects; events; distribution; source; fate and impacts of marine microplastics; WESTPAC Workshop on Distribution; Source; Fate and Impacts of Marine Microplastics; International Symposium on Marine Microplastic Pollution and Control; Training Workshop
Summary of role: Archipelagic and Island States Forum (AIS Forum) is a forum initiated by Indonesia for archipelagic states and island states around the world in 2018, to strengthen cooperation between members to deal with shared challenges in areas of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster management; economic challenges and opportunities such as the blue economy, responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, economic growth and creation of decent working opportunities; marine plastic debris; and good maritime governance
Summary of work: One of the focus areas of the AIS Forum is marine plastic debris. Cooperation on this topic appears to have until now been focused on sharing of smart solutions
Keywords/research fields: Archipelagic Island States Forum, AIS Forum, Archipelagic States, Island States, Function and mandate, Manado Joint Declaration, marine plastic debris
SECTION 5 – Funding organisations to ASEAN states
Summary of role: The World Bank is an international donor, focusing on helping developing countries to reduce poverty, increase shared prosperity and promote sustainable development.
Summary of work: The World Bank approaches marine plastics as a barrier to development and poverty alleviation. Its work on prevention of marine plastic pollution focus on the development of waste management and upstream solutions. It supports studies and provides financial support to prevent pollution from marine plastic debris in East Asia and the Pacific.
Keywords/research fields: World Bank; engagement on marine plastics; examples of projects and initiatives; studies and reports; improving solid waste management in Indonesia; PROBlue Trust Fund; Indonesia – Marine debris hotspot rapid assessment; Solving Marine Pollution: successful models to reduce wastewater; agricultural runoff; marine litter
Summary of role: The Commonwealth is an association of states with declared shared goals such as development, democracy and peace. It has now 53 Members with a total population of about 2.4 billion people. The Commonwealth adopted the Blue Charter in 2018 which recognises marine pollution from plastic as an ocean challenge across the Commonwealth.
Summary of work: A number of initiatives are being developed to support research in and limitation of marine plastic pollution such as the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework and the Commonwealth Litter Programme and ACU Blue Charter fellowships.
Keywords/research fields: Commonwealth; Commonwealth Blue Charter; The Common Clean Ocean Alliance; Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework; Commonwealth Litter Programme; ACU Blue Charter fellowships
Summary of role: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a development bank focused on the promotion of social and economic development in the Asia-Pacific region.
Summary of work: ADB launched the Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies for the Asia and Pacific region in May 2019. It signed a Letter of Intent with the Ministry of National Development of Indonesia to outline commitment on “South-South and Triangular Cooperation” on the reduction of marine plastic debris. In December 2019, ADB issued a tender on a new project titled “Promoting Action on Plastic Pollution from Source to Sea in Asia and the Pacific” for a knowledge and support technical assistance cluster.
Keywords/research fields: Asian Development Bank, (ADB); Asia-Pacific; loans; assistance; grants; Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies, South-South and Triangular Cooperation, Promoting Action on Plastic Pollution from Source to Sea
Summary of role and work: NIVA is conducting fundamental and applied research on marine and freshwaters. NIVA is looking at the effects of microplastics on agricultural systems and power environments. NORAD is the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. NORAD is in charge of the Norwegian Development Programme to Combat Marine Litter.
Keywords/research fields: Norwegian Institute for Water Research; NIVA; IMPASSE project; measuring microplastics in blue mussels; soils dumps for microplastics of urban origin; microplastics in the marine environment
Summary of role and work: SIDA is Sweden International Development Agency. SIDA is funding a project to combat marine litter and plastic pollution in Southeast Asia to be implemented by UNEP and COBSEA since 2018.
Keywords/research fields: Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA); project to combat marine litter and plastic pollution in Southeast Asia; MARPLASTICCs
SECTION 6 – Notable partnerships, non-institutional research programmes and public-private initiatives in the region
- ADDRESSING MARINE PLASTICS: A SYSTEMIC APPROACH (AMPSA)
Summary of role: ‘Addressing Marine Plastics: A Systematic Approach’ is a partnership led by the UNEP to develop a strategic roadmap to help guide transition to circular plastic economies.
Summary of work: A project with four components are currently being implemented: global alliance platform for circular economy; mobilising investment in waste management infrastructure and advance waste management solutions; developing a roadmap for GEF engagement and strategy development; facilitating knowledge sharing and project coordination.
Keywords/research fields: Addressing Marine Plastics; UNEP; New Plastics Economy; Ocean Conservancy; GRID-Adrenal; Global Environment Facility; circular economy; global alliance platform; investment; waste management; roadmap; strategy development; knowledge sharing; project coordination; role of gender
- GLOBAL PLASTIC ACTION PARTNERSHIP (GPAP)
Summary of role: The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is hosted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the World Resources Institute to tackle plastic waste from source to sea by fast-tracking circular economy solutions through identification of investable solutions.
Summary of work: The GPAP has launched pilot initiatives in key regions (Indonesia, Vietnam and Ghana) to accelerate the transition towards circular economy on the ground.
Keywords/research fields: Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP); World Economic Forum; World Resources Institute; plastic waste; circular economy; National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP)
- IUCN: CLOSE THE PLASTIC TAP PROGRAMME (IUCN – CPTP)
Summary of role: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a hybrid environmental network established in 1948 composing of both civil society and government organisations.
Summary of work: The IUCN’s programme of work on marine plastics, titled “Close the Plastic Tap”, focuses on tackling pollution at its source. Several projects run within this programme in different parts of the world and ocean basins.
Keywords/research fields: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Close the Plastic Tap; MARPLASTICCS; workshops; tackling marine plastics in Thailand; PWFI, Ha Long – Cat Ba Alliance; report; review of plastic footprint methodologies
- THE GLOBAL GHOST GEAR INITIATIVE (GGGI)
Summary of role: The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is a cross-sectoral alliance launched by the World Animal Protection in 2015 to achieve a net reduction of ghost gears in the ocean by 2030.
Summary of work: The GGGI consists of a series of projects reviewed by the GGGI Project Review Board and approved by the GGGI Steering Group: Global Ghost Gear Portal and Ghost Gear Reporter, Best Practice Framework for the management of fishing gear, Myanmar Ocean Project – Ghost Gear Removal in the Myeik Archipelago, Gear Marking in Indonesian Small Scale Fisheries, Thai Union Ghost Gear Work Plan and Philippines: the Steveston Harbour Net Recycling Initiative.
Keywords/research fields: Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI); GGGI Review Board and GGGI Steering Group; Global Ghost Gear Portal and Ghost Gear Reporter; Best Practice Framework for the management of fishing gear; Myanmar Ocean Project – Ghost Gear Removal in the Myeik Archipelago; Gear Marking in Indonesian Small Scale Fisheries; Thai Union Ghost Gear Work Plan; Philippines: the Steveston Harbour Net Recycling Initiative
- FAUNA AND FLORA INTERNATIONAL (FFI): MARINE PLASTICS PROGRAMME
Summary of role: Fauna and Flora International (FFI) was established in 1903 in the UK to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide.
Summary of work: In 2012, FFI officially launched FFI Marine Plastics Programme to raise awareness of marine microplastics and its threats and stop the direct source of microbeads and pre-production pellets.
Keywords/research fields: Fauna and Flora International (FFI); FFI Marine Plastics Programme; Ridge to reef conservation in Tanintharyi, Myanmar; plastic pollution; mismanaged plastic waste; Cambodia’s Marine and Coastal Programme; coastline plastic debris; No Time to Waste report
- OCEAN CONSERVANCY (OC)
Summary of role: Ocean Conservancy is an NGO established in 1972 to protect the ocean, its wildlife and dependent communities.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Ocean Conservancy has initiated a number of global initiatives and participated in other UN initiatives to combat marine plastics such as the International Coastal Cleanup and Trash Free Sea Alliance.
Keywords/research fields: Ocean Conservancy; International Coastal Cleanup (ICC); ICC report; Trash Free Seas Alliance; stemming the tide report; the next wave; role of gender in waste management report; plastic policy playbook
- TRASH HERO (TH)
Summary of role: Trash Hero is a global volunteer movement with the mission to bring the communities together to clean and reduce waste.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Trash Hero’s activities consist of cleaning trash, educating children, creating long-term programmes that help communities to reduce and better manage waste, and helping companies to reduce waste through Trash Hero @Work.
Keywords/research fields: Trash Hero; Trash Hero World; weekly clean-up programme; Trash Hero @ Work; annual reports
- THE OCEAN CLEANUP (TOC)
Summary of role: The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit legal entity founded in 2014 in the Netherlands with the overall objective of removing marine plastics
Summary of work: In October 2019, the Ocean Cleanup announced an oceanic clean-up attempt using a modified and refined engineering system to capture marine debris. Another objective of the Ocean Cleanup is to create a value chain on the basis of the collected plastic debris. In prevention of new wastes from entering the ocean, the Ocean Cleanup designed a different clean-up system, “The Interceptor”, to trap plastics from rivers.
Keywords/research fields: The Ocean Cleanup; marine debris; cleanup system; floating arrays; floating boom system; The Interceptor
- 4OCEAN (4O)
Summary of role: 4ocean is a private profit-driven business founded in the United States, which provide donations to ocean-related non-profits.
Summary of work: Merchandise sales provide donations to the works of marine and coastal clean-up effort.
Keywords/research fields: 4ocean; plastic crisis; purpose-driven business model
- PROJECT AWARE (PAWARE)
Summary of role: Project AWARE is a registered non-profit organisation which advances policies on plastic debris and sharks and rays.
Summary of recommendations and work status: Project AWARE flagship science-citizen programme is Dive Against Debris, which has scuba divers remove marine debris from the ocean and report data on the types, quantities and locations of materials collected.
Keywords/research fields: Project AWARE; dive against debris; adopt a dive site
- CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENT, FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE SCIENCE (CEFAS)
Summary of role and work: CEFAS is the UK government’s centre for applied marine and freshwater science and research.
Summary of work: Marine litter, including marine plastics, is a research focus of CEFAS with an emphasis on waste management, reducing sea-based sources of litter and developing a more sustainable life cycle for plastics. CEFAS is in charge of the delivery of the UK-funded Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP).
Keywords/research fields: Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; CEFAS; Commonwealth Litter Programme; CLiP
- COMMONWEALTH SCIENTIFIC AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION (CSIRO)
Summary of role: CSIRO is an independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research with marine debris as a focus area.
Summary of recommendations and work status: CSIRO has carried out many projects relating to plastic and waste management.
Keywords/research fields: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; CSIRO; projects; global plastic losses; ALDFG; commercial fishing lines; marine pollution; modelling and monitoring marine litter movement; transport and accumulation; microplastics
- EAST CHINA NORMAL UNIVERSITY (ECNU)
Summary of role and work: East China Normal University (ECNU), China, has a plastic marine debris research center and has visible publications in marine plastic research.
Keywords/research fields: East China Normal University (ECNU); plastic marine debris research center; hotspot monitoring; marine plastic waste forum
- THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY CENTRE (IETC)
Summary of role and work: The International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) is a think-tank to promote the collection and dissemination of knowledge on Environmentally Sound Technologies with a focus on waste management.
Keywords/research fields: International Environmental Technology Centre; IETC; think-tank; waste management
Summary of role and work: GRID-Arendal is a Norwegian governmental foundation established in 1989 to support environmentally sustainable development, with a research focus on marine debris (including marine plastics).
Keywords/research fields: GRID-Adrenal; marine debris; marine plastics; maps; graphics; controlling transboundary trade in plastic waste; addressing marine plastics; stock-taking report
- OUR SEAS OF EAST ASIA NETWORK (OSEAN)
Summary of role and work: Our Seas of East Asia Network (OSEAN) is a RO Korean non-profit organisation active in research, education promotion, policy development and international co-operation to protect the marine environment with a focus on marine debris.
Keywords/research fields: Our Seas of East Asia Network; OSEAN; marine debris; research; education promotion; policy development; international cooperation; coastal cleanup
- PLASTICS IN SOCIETY HUB
Summary of role and work: Plastics in Society Hub is a UK-led society that aims to establish a multi-national, multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research and innovation hub to solve the global challenge of plastics in society.
Keywords/research fields: Plastics in Society Hub; research; innovation
- GA CIRCULAR
Summary of role: GA circular is a private initiative that provides services to companies, investors, global foundations and government agencies in reaching a circular economy in Asia.
Summary of work: The work of GA circular includes particular expertise in post-consumer packaging and food waste, through providing services in research and data analytics, strategy and policy advisory, technical assistance and stakeholder engagements to its clients.
Keywords/research fields: GA circular; circular economy; post-consumer packaging; food waste; research and data analytics; strategy and policy advisory, technical assistance; stakeholder engagements; EPR; MRFs
- CIRCULATE CAPITAL
Summary of role: Circulate Capital is an investment management firm based in New York dedicated to financing companies, projects and infrastructures that prevent the flow of plastic waste to the world’s ocean and advance the circular economy.
Summary of work: The work of Circulate Capital includes the development of financing mechanisms for solutions to the problem of ocean plastic pollution in South and Southeast Asia.
Keywords/research fields: Circulate Capital; financing mechanisms; ocean plastic pollution; flow of plastic waste; circular economy; waste stream; solid waste management; capture and reuse; USAID partnership; Circulate Capital Ocean Fund; reports; Handbook for Action: Investing on reduce plastic pollution in South & Southeast Asia
- THE CIRCULATE INITIATIVE
Summary of role: The Circulate Initiative is a U.S. registered initiative non-profit organisation founded in 2019 with support from Circulate Capital to help address the ocean plastic issue through education, support and finance of innovation in waste management and incubation of investable businesses that can bring those innovations to market
Summary of work: The Circulate Initiative has three core activities: incubate, measure and amplify.
Keywords/research fields: Circulate Initiative; innovations; waste management; incubate; measure; amplify; The Incubation Network (TIN); Ocean Plastic Prevention Accelerator; Plastic Data Challenge
- FOOD INDUSTRY ASIA (FIA)
Summary of role: Food Industry Asia (FIA) founded in 2010, is the representative of the food industry in Asia. Its members include suppliers, manufacturers and retailers of food.
Summary of work: FIA deals with plastic under the framework of sustainable packaging. It released a study in 2018 on tackling plastic and packaging waste in Southeast Asia.
Keywords/research fields: Food Industry Asia (FIA); F&B; background and aim; Sustainable Packaging; plastic waste; packaging waste; Tackling Plastic Waste in Asia
- OCEAN PLASTICS CHARTER
Summary of role: The Ocean Plastics Charter was approved by five G7 states (Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the UK) and the EU in June 2018 to demonstrate commitments to take measures to address the plastic problem. It lays the groundwork for reuse and recycling.
Summary of role: The Charter’s Action Plan has five categories of actions, including coastal and shoreline action, which focuses on outreach and education.
Keywords/research fields: Ocean Plastics Charter; action plan; Ocean Plastics Charter’s Action Plan
- NEW PLASTICS ECONOMY – ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION
Summary of role: New Plastics Economy is an initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2016 to build momentum towards a circular economy for plastics, starting with packaging.
Summary of work: In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the New Plastic Economy Innovation Prize. In 2018, the Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. It has implemented a number of Pioneer Projects which bring together stakeholders from across the plastics value chain to address the system challenges that no organisation can face alone. It also created Plastics Pact, a network of national implementation initiatives aligned around a common vision and set of ambiguous targets.
Keywords/research fields: New plastics economy; Ellen MacArthur foundation; background; aim; activities; projects; New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize; New Plastics Economy Global Commitment; pioneer
- ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE (AEPW)
Summary of role: The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of more than 40 companies worldwide which produce, use, sell, process and recycle plastics and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which committed one billion USD with the goal of investing 1,5 billion USD in the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment.
Summary of work: The Alliance hosted the first international forum in Tokyo, Japan in July 2019 and the first forum in Southeast Asia in August 2019. It launched a partnership with project STOP to support development and launch of a waste management recycling system in the regency of Jembrana, Indonesia. It also entered into partnership with Plug and Play to create an accelerator program focused on the plastics value chain to identify startups with different innovations to address plastic waste in the environment.
Keywords/research fields: The Alliance to End Plastic Waste; AEPW; background; activities, partnership with Project STOP; partnership with Plug and Play
Part 2 - Gap Analysis and Recommendations
SECTION 1 – Regional framework of actions
- Goals, objectives and actions of the COBSEA RAP MALI
- The ASEAN Framework of Action for Marine Debris (FAMAD)
- The ASEAN+3 (APT) Marine Plastic Debris Cooperative Action Initiative
- The EAS Manila Plan of Action, 2018 Leader’s Statement on Combating Marine Plastic Debris and 2019 Chairman Statement of the 14th EAS
- The 2019 APEC Roadmap on Marine Debris
SECTION 2 – Comparison of regional frameworks
- Goals and objectives
- Actions and activities
- Institutional mechanisms, cooperation processes at governmental and non-governmental levels
SECTION 3 – Implementation of international law
- UNEA resolutions
- Other multilateral environmental agreements
SECTION 4 – Regional frameworks and published research
- Support provided by public research to regional frameworks and actions plans
- Research gaps to support implementation of regional frameworks and action plans
- Scope of analysis
- Regulatory approaches to plastic bags, single-use plastics and packaging
- Challenges linked to different approaches to plastic recycling and biodegradable plastics and other plastic alternatives
- Upstream source restrictions
- Summary of findings for the region on domestic policies and regulatory approaches and obstacles
- Research gaps
- Legal and institutional barriers or gaps
SECTION 7 – Recommendations
- Substantive issues in need of further research
- Research development and coordination
- Linkages between relevant governmental and intergovernmental institutions
- Context-specific outreach and education
- Research Inventory
Acronyms, Abbreviations, Definitions, Appendices & Bibliography
- Acronyms & Abbreviations
- Appendix I – List of Visible Players in the Marine Plastic Research Across ASEAN+3
- Appendix II – Scientific Publications Examined in ASEAN+3 (For Countries with >30 Publications)
- Appendix III – Detailed Analysis of Research Foci in ASEAN+3
- Appendix IV – Plastic Contaminants (Polymer Types, Associated and Sorbed Contaminants)
- Appendix V – Table of Adoption of Relevant Treaties in ASEAN+3
Sponsors and Partners
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university which has nurtured generations of talent since their founding in 1905. NUS aspire to be a vital community of academics, researchers, staff, students and alumni working together in a spirit of innovation and enterprise for a better world. http://www.nus.edu.sg/
Centre of International Law (CIL) was established as a university-level research institute at the NUS in 2009, in response to the growing need for international law thought leadership and capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region. CIL’s focus areas of research and training are ocean law and policy, ASEAN law and policy, investment law and policy, and international law and practice. https://cil.nus.edu.sg/
The Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) is a centre of excellence for research, development and
consultancy in tropical marine science as well as environmental science. With its multi-disciplinary research laboratories and active international links, it handles projects relevant to physical oceanography, acoustics, marine biology, marine mammals, biofuels, water resources and climate change. https://www.tmsi.nus.edu.sg/
St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory (SJINML) is the only offshore marine research facility in Singapore, established under the National Research Infrastructure scheme and was officially launched in 2016. The SJINML serves as a national resource and focal point for marine science expertise, supporting marine science research that meets Singapore’s future strategic national needs. http://sjinml.nus.edu.sg/
The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) is a regional intergovernmental mechanism and one of 18 Regional Seas programmes. It is the decision-making body for the East Asian Seas Action Plan, bringing together nine countries – Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Viet Nam – in protection and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment. COBSEA focuses on marine pollution, ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning and management, and ocean governance. The COBSEA Secretariat is hosted by Thailand and administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). www.cobsea.org
The Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is a multi-stakeholder partnership that provides a unique mechanism to bring together all actors working to prevent marine litter and microplastics, with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience and advancing solutions to this pressing global issue. Its mission is to protect the global marine environment, human wellbeing and animal welfare by addressing the global problem of marine litter, in line with Target 14.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Any entity working to prevent and reduce marine litter can join the Partnership at: www.gpmarinelitter.org
The SEA circular project is implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Swedish Government. SEA circular works in partnership with governments, businesses, civil society, academia, and international partners to reduce and prevent plastic pollution. The initiative promotes market-based solutions and enabling policies to transform plastic value-chain management, strengthens the science base for informed decision making, engages consumers and disadvantaged groups through targeted outreach, and leverages COBSEA’s regional mechanisms to tackle the transboundary challenge of marine litter. www.sea-circular.org
- Report Download
SEA of Solutions
CIL has also led a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from NUS to the SEA of Solutions organized by UN Environment at UN Headquarters in Bangkok on 11-14 November 2019 and sponsored speakers for two sessions. Click here for more information on this event.
First Review of Research on Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia: Who Does What? (May 2019)
In May 2019, CIL has completed a report ‘A Review of Research on Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia: Who Does What?‘, in partnership with St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, the Tropical Marine Science Institute, with the financial support of the Government of the United Kingdom and with the support of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS) who participates as an observer to working groups on marine plastics at the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organisation and at the Conference of the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol.
CIL-OLP is coordinating a feasibility study for the development of a Regional Knowledge Organisation System for Marine Environmental Data in Southeast Asia (KOSMESEA). The project started in October 2019 and is due for completion on 30 June 2021.
The ambition of this project is to investigate the feasibility of a KOSMESEA through enhancing accessibility of regional marine environmental data with a view to inform implementation of ocean law and policy. The approach taken is that such development would also improve the protection of the marine environment and management of marine and coastal resources.
The idea of a KOSMESEA is based on the observation that records of marine environmental data relating to Southeast Asia are scattered around the world in a number of private and institutional hands, in different formats including digital and hard copy documents, as well as in global and regional databases developed for different purposes, for different taxa and/or for different geographical areas. These databases also have different digital architectures and metadata.
KOSMESEA involves several parallel workstreams:
- Inventory of relevant online data sources for the region and their metadata (including databases, reports and peer-reviewed publications),
- Exploration of potential partnership with regional data repositories, and
- Pilot study and data aggregation for three species that occur in the seas of Southeast Asia: a finger coral (Acropora humilis), the big eye tuna (Thunnus obesus) and the bottlenose wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae).
KOSMESEA core project team brings together expertise in marine sciences, ocean law and policy and computer sciences. Since October 2019, It has been composed of three co-leads Youna Lyons, Danwei Huang and Zeehan Jaafar and three members (Choo Heng Kek, Lim Cheng Ling and Clarence Sim) as well as additional support provided by NUS colleagues and students. The team has also partnered with NUS Library which provides additional expertise and support on metadata, data organisation systems and data hosting.
NUS Satellite Research Project on the South China Sea
CIL led and coordinated a special project on the South China Sea entitled ‘Multidisciplinary Satellite Survey of the Shallow Geographic Feature in the SCS’. This Project involved a satellite image-based mapping of all visible insular geographic features in the SCS, including natural and man-made features, description of their geographic characteristics, natural coastal and marine habitats as well as land cover. It seeks to provide baseline information for further research on marine ecosystems and biodiversity of insular geographic features in the South China Sea.
Click here to access data obtained from this Project.
CIL-organised conference on 'Transboundary Pollution: Evolving Issues of International Law and Policy
This conference has been organized in 2014 and followed by the publication of an edited volume of the same title in 2015. The conference and publication examined the international legal principles governing transboundary pollution; the application of the state responsibility doctrine in the context of transboundary pollution; the international legal framework established to address specific types of transboundary pollution, including pollution of the marine environment and shared water resources, nuclear pollution and air pollution; and case studies of European, Asian and Southeast Asian countries to demonstrate how the legal framework has been applied in practice within a regional context.
Research Project on Treaty Law and Practice
CIL is engaged in a project to carry out training and research on treaty law and practice. The project aims to improve treaty law and practice in Southeast Asia countries and ASEAN and to publish a handbook on best treaty practice for a broad readership worldwide in governments, international organisations and beyond. The project began with CIL and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law (the Institute) collaboration in holding an International Workshop on Treaty Law and Practice for government officials in Southeast Asia and ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) officials that took place in Singapore in January 2012. CIL and the Institute have engaged treaty experts with extensive practical experience in dealing with treaties to provide advice and contribute to the 2012 Workshop and the initial writing of the handbook.
At the end of its collaboration with the Institute, CIL and the ASEC, with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, held a second workshop on Treaty Management in International Organisations: Lessons Learnt and ASEAN Practice in Jakarta in December 2016. Apart from contributing to the common understanding on treaty management work in international organisations, especially the ASEC, the second workshop forms an indispensable part in the drafting of the handbook as it discussed the ins and outs of a treaty office in managing its organisation’s instruments.
Both the trainings and the drafting of the handbook have engaged treaty experts with extensive practical experience in dealing with treaties, in particular Jill Barrett, then Senior Research Fellow of the Institute and former Legal Counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Paul Barnett, then Visiting Fellow of the Institute and former Head of Treaty Section, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and Gerard Limburg, former Director of Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. CIL is also grateful for the participation of Elise Cornu and Ana Gomez Heredero, the then and current Head of the Treaty Office Unit, Council of Europe, and Anthony Wetherall, CIL Senior Research Fellow and former Legal Officer at the International Atomic Energy Agency. CIL is also supported in this project by a team of ASEAN Law and Policy Research Fellows and Associates. Associate Professor Robert Beckman, CIL Head of Ocean Law and Policy, is co-authoring the handbook together with Jill Barrett.
Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore
- Associate Professor Robert C BECKMAN
Head, Ocean Law and Policy Programme
- Dr Hao Duy PHAN
Senior Research Fellow
- Ms Ranyta YUSRAN
- Mr Hadyu IKRAMI (until 2018)
British Institute of International and Comparative Law
- Ms Jill BARRETT (until 2016)
- Mr Paul BARNETT (until 2012)
- Mr Gerard LIMBURG (until 2012)
External Resource Persons
- Ms Jill BARRETT
- Ms Elise CORNU (Council of Europe) (until 2012)
- Ms Ana Gómez HEREDERO (Council of Europe) (until 2017)
- Ms Rena LEE (Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore) (until 2017)
- Dr Tull TRAISORAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand) (until 2017)
- Mr Un SOVANNASAM (ASEAN Secretariat) (until 2017)
- Associate Professor Robert C BECKMAN