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Waste management and a circular economy

Marine litter – a danger to humans and animals


Plastic litter on a beach in Sri Lanka

Marine litter poses a global risk to marine ecosystems, to the fishing industry, to tourism and – where it finds its way into the food chain – possibly also to human health. According to estimates, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic debris find their way from land into the world’s oceans each year. Most of this litter originates in developing and emerging countries, for instance in South-East Asia and countries bordering the Mediterranean. Fishing nets lost at sea, micro-beads in cosmetics that end up in wastewater, textiles and other products also add to the total volume of marine litter.

Marine litter is currently known to have had adverse impacts on some 800 animal species. Seabirds and marine mammals in particular, but also marine reptiles and fish ingest plastic or get caught up in plastic debris.

Reducing marine pollution

One of the goals set out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda is to significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular marine litter and nutrient pollution. Resolutions adopted by the UN Environment Assembly and under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as regional marine litter action plans call on countries to put in place environmentally friendly waste management systems and to take further measures.


German activities

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports the G7 Action Plan and G20 activities with regard to combating marine litter.

The BMZ’s Ten-point Plan of Action Marine Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries aims to contribute to eliminating the causes of marine pollution. To that end, the BMZ is expanding its cooperation with partner countries on environmental policy and projects, and is working with them on developing model approaches for integrated waste management. In addition, the BMZ is committed to sharing its know-how with developing and emerging countries and to promoting public-private partnerships (PPPs).


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