Session Chairs: Eric DesRoberts, Ocean Conservancy

This session will focus on decisions made at different points along product value chains, why some of these decisions create problems for our ocean, and what can be done to solve these problems by bringing diverse stakeholders together.

 No single entity is going to be able to address marine debris alone and multiple parties will have to come together to truly create systemic change. However, aside from the recognition that plastic litter does not belong in the ocean, there are often grey areas and tradeoffs to be assessed throughout a product and packaging system that make the topic of marine debris incredibly complex. The panelists for this session all oversee networks of industry, NGO, and academic thought-leaders to address marine debris from multiple angles and create robust and resilient solutions. The panelists will discuss some of the design decisions behind items and materials that pose some of the biggest marine debris challenges, the importance of including more system based thinking into operations, and the business case for addressing marine debris. This session will focus on decisions made at different points along product value chains, why some of these decisions create problems for our ocean, and what can be done to solve these problems by bringing diverse stakeholders together.



A systems perspective on plastics and ocean waste

presenting: Alix Grabowski (WWF, United States); authors: Alix Grabowski (WWF, United States)

There is an urgent need to stop the flow of waste into our oceans, and the private sector has a critical role to play in this endeavor. At the same time, the problem is complex and tied not only to waste management but also to material and design choices. It is imperative to understand the trade-offs that different design choices have for both the environment and people, so that transparent, evidence based decision making is possible. Without this transparency, we run the serious risk of transferring the environmental burden from one area to another, and falling short of achieving our goals. On this panel, I will discuss the mechanics of common material trade-offs, and illustrate why cooperation both along the supply chain and across the private and public sector is necessary in order to address this challenge.


How Life Cycle Assessment Can Inform Solutions to the Problem of Marine Debris

presenting: Peter Spendelow (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, United States); authors: peter Spendelow (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, United States), Peter Canepa (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality), Peter Spendelow (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality)

Municipal solid waste is the tail end of a large and complex industrial system of materials. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a widely used method of better understanding the environmental impacts of these materials, including some of the impacts of waste. Biological impacts of marine debris are typically not included in most life cycle assessments, although other impact categories that affect oceans are, including global warming, eutrophication, and marine ecotoxicity.

Solid waste – and especially marine debris – is highly visible to the public. But for many environmental impact categories, the upstream processes related to resource extraction and material production typically dwarf the impacts of municipal solid waste. This can lead to surprising environmental conflicts when marine debris stakeholders advocate for solutions (e.g., compostable packaging, bioplastics) that may reduce marine debris impacts while increasing other ocean-related environmental impacts in ways that are less obvious but no less real.

This presentation will explore current limitations in LCA related to marine debris, and introduce several studies from Oregon and elsewhere that illustrate the benefits of using LCA to understand and better manage these types of hidden trade-offs. We will also explore the issue of geography – given significant differences in waste management systems, different solutions to the problem of marine debris are more or less relevant in different regions of the world.



presenting: Naiara Casagrande (Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil); authors: Naiara Casagrande (Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil)

The consumption of plastic has increased since its production has started in the year 1975. Otherwise the investments in infrastructure, management and even population conscious for the correct disposal of the debris haven’t followed the large numbers of production and consumption, mainly in developing countries. It has brought environmental problems, as the anthropogenic marine debris accumulating in estuarine and coastal environments around the world causing damage to human health and biodiversity. In the Life Cycle Assessment methodology is common to consider landfill, recycling or incineration as the modelling scenarios at the end-of-life for plastics. Impacts indicators for plastic debris without management is lacking in LCA. Therefore the aim of this study is to highlight this deficit in Life Cycle Assessment studies, identifying and characterizing the potential environmental impacts caused by unmanaged plastic and contribute for the development of a new indicator. This paper evidences the scenario of mismanaged plastic, indicating the flow of these material in the environment until it entrys to the ocean, the estimated proportion of the unmanaged plastics that goes to the ocean, impacts caused by these debris and a modest indication of where it would be included in Life Cycle Assessment.