Session Chairs: Dr. Tony R. Walker, Dalhousie University; Dirk Xanthos, Ecology Action Centre

This session will review the current state of policies and legislation regarding phasing out or banning microplastics and explore strategies for advancing further reductions or bans.

Plastics are now ubiquitous in the marine environment. While researchers have noted the problem of plastics in the marine environment since the 1970’s, the issue of marine plastic pollution has only recently been identified as an issue of global significance. Microplastics (defined as plastic fragments less than 5mm) contribute significantly to this marine pollution. Microplastics can travel great distances floating or suspended seawater, and become incorporated in sediment or stranded on beaches. Single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and microbeads, are a significant source of microplastics in the marine environment.

Research has highlighted that plastics have significant environmental, social, and economic impacts. Despite overwhelming evidence of the threat of plastic in the marine environment, there remains inadequate or limited policies to address their mitigation, particularly microplastic debris. Further, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. In this session, current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads will be reviewed. After identifying the current state of play, the session will provide recommendations for improved practises and policies. This will include recommendations for (1) law and waste management strategies; (2) education, outreach and awareness; (3) source identification; and (4) increased monitoring and further research.

Finally, the session will intend to highlight current advocacy efforts for the advancement of microplastic policy and legislation, with the aim of providing direction for individuals to advance such changes in their own regions.




Progressing legal and policy frameworks towards upstream solutions at a regional and international level to prevent harm environmental and human from plastic products and waste

presenting: Karen Raubenheimer (ANCORS, Australia); authors: Karen Raubenheimer (ANCORS, Australia)

Policy intervention has historically viewed the issue of marine plastic litter as a failure of solid waste management services. In acknowledging that these services are the frontline response to the problem, recognition is increasingly being given to the need for ‘upstream’ solutions. The Polluter Pays principle and Extended Producer Responsibility are often included in binding and voluntary instruments. But how can these be further elaborated meaningfully into policy that result in effective reductions in pollution of the marine environment by plastic litter and microplastics? Marine plastic litter is a symptom of a multitude of bad management practices in multiple sectors throughout the lifecycle of plastics, both on land and at sea. The international framework establishes a clear duty to prohibit pollution of the marine environment from the deliberate dumping or disposal of wastes contain plastics, including fishing gear. But the duty to prevent such harm from land-based sources of plastic waste, both to the environment in general and to public health, is less prescriptive at the international and regional level. This session explores the possibilities to extend current policy measures to regulate the activities of industry, from design to end-of-life treatment, and to improve the current framework in this regard. An important element of any policy intervention is consideration of industry trends and initiatives, including international trade in plastic products and waste. Regional approaches are important, but the globalisation of the lifecycle of plastics must also be considered in regional strategies. This discussion aims to marry the efforts at the international and regional levels and identify gaps and areas for strengthening regional approaches in progressing towards a holistic lifecycle approach to the issue.


Scotland: A small country tackling the big problem of marine plastic litter with legislation and creative policies.

presenting: Morag Campbell (Scottish Government, United Kingdom); authors: Morag Campbell (Scottish Government, United Kingdom)

In 2014, Scotland published a Marine Litter Strategy with a clear purpose: to develop current and future measures to ensure that the amount of litter entering the marine and coastal environment is minimised to bring ecological, economic and social benefits.

To deliver this strategy, the Scottish Government is encouraging behaviour change at public and business levels with policy and supporting this with legislation. All marine litter is targeted by the strategy, however, there is a more recent focus on plastic, big and small.

Scotland introduced a plastic bag charge in 2014, resulting in an 80% drop in the number used by customers and a comparable reduction in the number of plastic bags collected in beach cleans. Following this success, research into a nation-wide deposit return scheme for drinks containers was commissioned and final scheme designs are to be put to public consultation shortly. Work has also begun to study further fiscal and other measures to boost the circular economy including imposing a levy on single-use items such as disposable cups. Legislation has been developed to ban the manufacture and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads in 2018. Further legislation is being considered to ban plastic cotton buds and to regulate the manufacture, transportation and handling of pre-production plastics, or ‘Nurdles’, which make their way into our seas through accidental spillage in the form of pellets or powders. It is hoped that nurdle handling regulation will provide brands and retailers with an accreditation system for their containers, demonstrating responsible production.


Policy and legislation for plastic litter should match the scale of the problem and be informed by science

presenting: Chelsea Rochman (University of Toronto, Canada); authors: Chelsea Rochman (University of Toronto, Canada), Stephanie Borrelle (Auckland University of Technology), Max Liboiron (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Alexander Bond (Natural History Museum, Hertforshire), Amy Lusher (Norwegian Institute for Water Research), Hillary Bradshaw (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Jennifer Provencher (Acadia University)

An estimated 4.4 – 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the oceans from land annually. As a consequence of increasing plastic production, growing demand for single-use plastics, leaky waste management, and the durability of plastic, plastic litter has infiltrated all levels of the food web, including food for human consumption. Plastic is also found in unexpected and remote places like deep sea trenches and Arctic sea ice. Plastic pollution is clearly a global issue, but is largely managed locally (e.g., bag bans, waste management strategies, educational campaigns). But plastic pollution does not observe borders, so why should policy? This summer, The Ocean Conference held at the United Nations headquarters in New York highlighted plastic pollution as one of the top issues for conservation. Sustainable Development Goal 14 includes a target to reduce global emissions of plastic pollution into the oceans. In order to achieve such goals, which have been repeated time and time again since the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Summit), international policy instruments are required. With an interest in understanding what policy occurs at an international level, we scanned policy documents and agreements regarding plastic and other pollution issues. We conclude that to reduce plastic pollution we need international policy instruments that have defined reduction targets, signatories from member states, and a global fund to provide resources for mitigation and implementation. Here, we highlight existing international policy documents around plastic and other pollution issues, the state of the science regarding plastic’s effects on biota and ecosystems, and how together they may inform future large-scale mitigation.


Acute need of Legal Framework for management of marine debris and Microplastics in India

presenting: Shwetal Shah (Government of Gujarat, India); authors: Shwetal Shah (Government of Gujarat, India)

India is the second most populous country of the world. One sixth of humanity exists in India and it is the fastest growing major economy of the world. Very high density of population puts a big pressure over country’s natural resources. Everyday India produces around 175,000 metric tons of solid waste, 65% of it gets collected, 15% of the total waste gets treated, 50% of the total waste is dumped into the low-lying areas and in landfill sites and 35% remains scattered in the environment. The scattered waste is the major reason of contamination of air, land and water bodies including ground water and marine waters. Plastics comprises 7 to 10% of total solid waste by volume, with increasing income of average Indian, plastics will be 25% of total solid waste by 2030. The present annual consumption of plastic in India is around 13.4 million metric tons which will grow to 22 million metric tons by 2020. The average per capita plastic consumption in India is 11 kg per annum against world average of 28 kg. The basic studies about concentration and abundance of micro-plastics in Indian rivers and oceans are not available. However, based on random studies, it is evident that microplastic contamination is increasing drastically in Indian marine environment. In absence of scientific treatment of solid waste and lackadaisical approach in enforcement of legal provisions about solid waste management in India, it pauses a big challenge for future. In this paper it is projected that potential concentration of micro-plastics in Indian marine environment will be significantly higher than the global average and if it is not addressed in scientific and timely manner, it will be one of the major roadblock on sustainable development of not only of India but also of the whole humanity. India has articulated Water (Prevention and Control of