According to Jambeck et al., (2015), “without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025”.
Currently there are no effective tools available to collect and clean up the accumulation of macro and micro-plastics once they have reached the oceans. Prevention at source is therefore the key action required to deal with plastics pollution and its associated impacts.
In response to growing concern over plastic waste in oceans, individuals, community groups, businesses and governments have initiated a wide range of programmes to try and curtail the growth rate of plastics leakage from land sources. In addition, a range of international and regional agreements and conventions have been developed to protect the oceans from dumping and contamination. These important protocols typically require the adoption of measures aimed at controlling, reducing and preventing pollution from land-based activities, from ships, from seabed and land-based activities, and from airborne pollution. These are useful frameworks that help governments of coastal countries to jointly work on these problems, but to date they have not halted the continued increase in plastics pollution of the oceans.
The growth of plastic waste is directly linked to increased per-capita consumption associated with economic growth and urbanisation, as consumers move to foods shipped in plastic packaging for freshness and freedom from contamination. A paradigm shift in the global and national management of this problem is required. Long-term solutions must involve up-stream as well as downstream waste management strategies. In developing countries, improved waste management infrastructures are paramount and will require substantial resources and support from developed countries. In industrialised countries, urgent action on redesigning packaging, reducing, recovering and stabilising the markets for recycled plastics through mandatory recycled content is paramount. All countries need to curb the use of single-use plastics and assure protecting waterways from stray plastics.