Potential Measures Suggested in the Framework of the Stockholm and Basel Conventions to Address Marine Litter; Contribution from the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs.)

and Basel Conventions to Address Marine Litter; Contribution from the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Plastic marine litter is an issue of global environmental and health concern, due to its persistence, wide geographical distribution and long-range transport capacity of persistent and toxic chemicals in the marine environment.

Due to the toxic chemical exposure of marine biota through marine plastic litter and the related bioaccumulation and widespread distribution in all marine compartments of persistent micro- and nanoplastics with chemicals of concern acting as persistent organic pollutants in the marine environment and given the potential human affection to consider: [1]

most widely used in packaging—in open oceans [18,58,60,69]. In addition, apart from their mobility and fluxes through all the compartments of the marine environment [15], the new inputs of “fresh” plastic into the marine environment are so continuous and widespread through all the oceans that would be equivalent to the continental or oceanic long-range transport property of highly persistent POPs. Their exposure to marine biota is relevant because

a. The very low doses of EDCs required to affect the endocrine systems in marine biota and humans [90], compared to those required in toxicological tests to prove carcinogenicity in candidate POPs, especially during the embryo and developing stages,

b. The uptake of microplastics containing those chemicals by marine biota, which may affect biodiversity, food security, food availability and potentially human health, especially if the persistent plastic consumption and production follows the expected growing trends in the coming decades (see Figure 10.1), without the necessary environmentally sound waste management and collection facilities being in place globally to avoid plastic leaking into the oceans.

2. The introduction of measures to reduce marine plastic litter in National Implementation Plans for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, such as

a. Promoting substitution and green chemistry to avoid POPs and other harmful chemicals in plastics, especially EDCs.

b. Encouraging plastic waste prevention and supporting development and implementation of safer or more benign alternatives to persistent plastics in the marine environment.

c. Supporting research on environmental and health impacts of marine plastics, microplastics and nanoplastics and related fate of EDCs and POPs.

d. Encouraging ecodesign for better packaging recyclability.

e. Encouraging plastic waste recycling when feasible.

f. Promoting BATs to reduce plastic leakage to oceans and improving information on input loads, sources and originating sectors.

g. Encouraging the improvement and efficiency of collection and sound environmental management of waste.

h. Encouraging changes in consumption and littering behavior.

Contribution from the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes

To acknowledge plastic marine litter as an issue of global environmental and health concern, due to its persistence, wide geographical distribution and long-range transport capacity of toxic chemicals in the marine environment and the need to address it by improvement of waste management and other means.

To consider:

  • 1. To include measures to avoid or reduce marine plastic litter in the Strategic Framework for the implementation of the Basel Convention.
  • 2. Revising Annexes I and III of the Convention to ensure the listing of all chemicals with endocrine disruptor substances (EDCs) in plastics that may end up as microplastic waste in the marine environment.
  • 3. The adoption of new guidelines on environmental sound management of plastic and plastic containing wastes, with a view to minimize the possibility of plastic leaks into the oceans coming from waste management.
  • 4. Reviewing policies related to the export of plastic containing waste to countries where no environmentally sound recycling, recovery or final disposal of the plastic materials contained in the waste are guaranteed, i.e. uncontrolled recycling of plastics with toxic chemicals, waste disposal in non-BAT open dumps, or incinerated in cement furnaces with no environmental controls, or non-BAT incinerators without tight environmental measures and controls like dioxin catalyzers, continuous outflow monitoring and sound environmental landfilling of its ashes.
  • 5. Ensuring the best available techniques and best environmental practices are recommended in Basel Convention waste guidelines and manuals to avoid disposal methods that might re-release toxic chemicals into the air, water or soils to safeguard the health of neighboring communities.
  • 6. Developing efficient strategies for achieving the prevention and minimization of the generation of marine plastic litter.

  • [1] To take into account the risks of additives in plastics with endocrine disruptorproperties when selecting and assessing substances for the listing of new POPsin the Stockholm Convention. Some plastic additives with endocrine disruptiveproperties which might not pass some of the POPs screening criteria such aspersistence in water in standard laboratory conditions, are expected to have longerhalf-life in the plastic due to the protection (or molecular encapsulation) withinthe polymer matrix, and may have even longer half-life in the marine environment,due to its physical and chemical properties such as lower temperatures, loweroxygen levels, salinity, pH and lower levels of light in water column and seafloor and sediments, i.e. theoretically “non-persistent” chemical additives or tracemonomers in plastics (such as alkvlphenols, phthalates, BPA) have been detectedin high concentrations in floating polyethylene and polypropylene plastic—the
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