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| be Waste Wise | September 29, 2023

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Preventing Marine Litter: Global Priorities | Costas Velis, ISWA Task Force on Marine Litter

Costas Velis

Organized on 9th May, 2018



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COSTAS VELIS, Chair, ISWA Task Force on Marine Litter 

We wanted to make sure that the world understands, that the best way to have a fast solution on the problem of marine litter, is to have better waste management on land

  • Two billion people live without access to basic waste collection, therefore impact the plastic marine litter pollution.
  • Sustainable Development Goals call for action to minimize and mitigate the pollution that comes from plastic pollution and pollution debris that comes from land to the sea, also providing collection to our fellow humans.   The sustainable goal level is about sustainable cities and minimizing the impacts of absent waste management.
  • Marine litter is more than plastics, but plastics it’s the most prominent and possibly the most problematic of the solid waste items. However, is not the material that is problematic but the issue is the way human societies are handling waste and resources. Core priorities for solving marine litter are to provide sound collection of waste for all countries, stop fly-tipping and littering, and eventually close dumpsites near waterbodies.
  • Core priorities for solving marine litter are to provide sound collection of waste for all countries, stop fly-tipping and littering, and eventually close dumpsites near waterbodies.

Demonizing plastic is a simplistic approach and doesn’t help us understand the systemic challenges we have related to materials and consumption

  • The lack of infrastructure and services in the low-income countries or in the poorest parts in mega cities is the most important issue.
  • To be able to prevent the microplastics, it’s better to go upstream and collect the material ahead.
  • There is another trend about solutions on the ground and deliver infrastructure that is locally adopted and also infrastructure that comes along with capacity building and having the people on the ground able to manage their waste on their own.

I think these some key message is that not be lost into so much noise that is around.

  • Waste aware cities benchmark cities indicator is a very important methodology and has been applied in over 50 cities around the world and is considered to contribute for the monitoring of the relevant sustainable development goal 11.6.1.
  • Another project is trying to see how cities floor deal with their waste and what flows from the cities to the marine litter as a flow diagram.
  • Intera is a methodology developed a few years ago trying to help interventions focused on inclusion of waste pickers and foremost sector recyclers. 

The main concern still remains providing primary waste collection to the poor people around the world.

  • A proper circular economy that maximizes the value of plastic as a material in rationalization in the use of disposable plastics minimization is absolutely on the agenda but proposing eco-friendly alternative we have to see things holistically through LCA studies.

This is a global challenge that won’t be solved tomorrow and this is the fundamental reason while plastics does not have sufficient value to be collected & recycled and then inevitably is prone to be disposed of and leaked into the sea.

  • There are solutions towards energy recovery they have to be taken into account but they have to be affordable and there are other technical complexities in that area.
  • Organizing the waste primary waste collection and the source separation of the plastics from the organic waste for recycling is a critical part that will enable solution. Then simple mechanical sorting of the plastic and manual sorting with expertise lies within the remit of informal recyclers skills.

We don’t want investment in hugely expensive facilities that is going to become ghost facility after five years.”


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