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Marine Litter

Vital Graphics

take into account differences in demographics (such as

gender, age, income and social status).

There are obviously benefits in terms of energy, climate

and health from using plastics and therefore the goal

should not be to completely move away from plastic,

but to use it more efficiently and in an environmentally

sustainable way. Even with all the efforts made in the

separation and collection of plastic waste, the proportion

of plastics that are effectively recycled globally may not

even reach 5 per cent of production (Velis, 2014), with

large regional variations. The annual volume of globally

traded plastic waste destined for recycling was around

15 million tonnes in 2012 (Velis, 2014), with China being

a leading import country for plastic scrap recycling.

Profound changes are needed to reduce the amount of

pollution from plastic waste. Such changes will affect

society and industry and, while there are many examples

of shifts in the right direction, the magnitude of change

needed will take a substantial amount of time.

And yet there is no time to lose. The forecasted impacts

of marine litter demand the urgent development of

alternative, efficient solutions. Short-term solutions should

be implemented to reduce the immediate negative effects,

while the necessary long-term changes in consumption

and production are incentivised through policy, economic

and education/awareness mechanisms. It is clear that

plastic has multiple value and functions in our society.

There is a need for further research into the demographics

of consumer behaviour specific to marine plastic pollution,

and willingness to change those behaviours. But given

the negative (and unknown) impacts that plastic has on

the marine environment, it is necessary to take urgent

measures to reduce our dependency of short-lived plastic

and to prevent it from reaching the marine environment.

How much plastic waste is produced worldwide Plastic waste generation rate Kilograms per person per day Source: Jambeck, J., R., et al., Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, Science, 2015 0.7 0.5 0.2 0.1