Outcomes of the 2nd Multi-stakeholder consultation workshop on a systematic approach to marine plastics

In late January, the 2nd multi-stakeholder consultation workshop on a systematic approach to marine plastics took place at the UN Environment offices in Paris. The workshop built on background research conducted by UN Environment and on the findings of the 1st workshop, which highlighted hotspots, problematic products and polymers, and key areas of intervention along the global plastics value chain, for a systemic approach to marine plastics. The 2nd consultation brought together plastics and marine experts, decision makers and innovators from different horizons to provide their insights for a systemic and preventive approach to marine plastics, advising on actions that can be taken by different actors and at the different stages of the value chain (extraction, production, consumption, waste management) in a concerted effort. Discussion focused on actions to address marine plastics related to specific focus areas.

Sessions 1 to 3 introduced the project and background information. On point mentioned during these sessions, was that there is a strong need for product life cycle-based tools to evaluate alternatives. The life cycle assessment studies (LCAs) need to include the impact of plastics when they reach the (marine) environment (ecosystem impacts of litter), to enable a comprehensive and fair comparison with other alternatives.

Sessions 4 to 7 focused on specific focus areas identified in terms of their volume of losses to and/or impact on the marine environment, based on the background research by UN Environment. Using a mapped value chain and based on the hotspots identified previously, recommended actions for textiles, construction, cosmetic & personal care products, packaging and single-use items, tourism, fishing, shipping as well as household consumption and the disposal of plastics were identified and discussed.

In a final session, the priority recommended actions for each focus area were summarized. This allowed for some initial key observations:

  • Crosscutting actions around building knowledge are required to allow for evidence-based actions (e.g., actions around monitoring and baselines, particular flows and impacts) and in the assessment of alternatives;
  • A number of actions relate to design and innovation, including new materials, reuse models, new business models etc.
  • Actions by governments are required to create level playing fields, including creating standards for recycled materials, recyclability, product labelling, etc.
  • Actions to promote collaboration between public and private sectors are required, including through EPR schemes;

The workshop lead to recommendations on priority actions along the global value chain of plastics that could be taken to address problematic products and polymers. The workshop outcomes an input to finalise recommendations for actions for a systemic approach to marine plastics, to be published in the coming months. These recommendations for actions aim to guide UN Environment and other active actors in the plastics agenda.