Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  6 / 60 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 6 / 60 Next Page
Page Background


Marine Litter

Vital Graphics

Marine litter (or debris)* is waste created by humans that has been discharged into

the coastal or marine environment. It is defined as“any anthropogenic, manufactured,

or processed solid material (regardless of size) discarded, disposed of, or abandoned

in the environment, including all materials discarded into the sea, on the shore, or

brought indirectly to the sea by rivers, sewage, storm water, waves, or winds” (UNEP

and NOAA, 2012).


Just as human activities are varied and widespread, so are

the sources of litter. The sources may be located directly at

sea, on the coast or further inland. Litter can be transported

over long distances and into all marine habitats – from the

surf zone all the way to remote mid-oceanic gyres and the

deep sea floor. Like other pollutants, marine litter affects

habitats, ecological function and the health of organisms

of the ecosystems where it accumulates.

*The terms litter and debris are considered to have the same meaning in

this report and are used interchangeably throughout.

Any human-made object that does not naturally degrade

within days or months can potentially become marine

litter if it is not properly managed. Common litter items

are made of paper, wood, textiles, metal, glass, ceramics,

rubber and plastic discarded by humans (UNEP, 2005).

What is marine litter and why

it is of concern

Are most of the plastics produced still around? Average human life expectancy Use lifespan of short-lived plastic products Use lifespan of single use plastic products Use lifespan of long-lived plastic products Estimated time range for plastic degradation in the marine environment ca 70 years few weeks to few years few minutes to few days ca 30 years Hundreds to thousands of years 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 2 nd generation 3 rd generation 4 th generation Source: Barnes, D. K., et al., Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments, Biological Sciences