Sustain_Clean Sweep_large

Making marine litter everyone’s problem

In recent years, marine researchers are noting with increasing frequency that seabirds and marine wildlife are suffering from starvation and malnutrition caused by ingesting marine litter.

A global issue

The Global Declaration of the Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter from March 2011 is a public commitment from the industry to work with partners to tackle this growing issue. The declaration has been signed by 56 signatories from 34 countries. Last year alone, it launched over 100 projects to address the complex problem of marine litter, working with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other government entities.

One of these projects is Operation Clean Sweep. This international programme is designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep pellets out of the waste stream and the marine environment. Its ultimate goal is zero pellet loss. The initiative works with all segmentsof the industry − from resin producers and transporters to bulk terminal operators and plastics processors.

"Plastics litter in any environment is unacceptable.

While acknowledging that the causes of marine litter are

multiple and complex and that the problem cannot be

solved by one stakeholder alone, the European plastics

industry is determined to drive multi-stakeholder action 

on the issue both in Europe and at international level.

- PlasticsEurope


Campaigning for change

Plastics Europe, the European plastic trade association, and Elipso, the French plastic and flexible packaging association are taking part in Operation Clean Sweep. By providing education and awareness of the problem of marine litter and its impact on marine life, they hope to show those working in the industry how they can make a difference.

The association has created a communications toolkit for a 'Zero Pellet Losses' campaign for its members. The campaign will initially target employees in plastics factories. Once created the communication toolkit, including slides, videos and posters, will be available to all members of Marine Litter Solutions.

The Clean Sweep campaign is also being relaunched in the US with a new website, brochures, posters and webinars to raise awareness of the issue of marine litter throughout North America.


How long does marine debris take to biodegrade?


› Cardboard box and paper towels 2-4 weeks

› Newspaper 6 weeks

› Apple core 2 months

› Waxed milk carton 3 months

› Cotton gloves 5 months

› Photodegradable 6-pack ring 6 months

› Biodegradable diaper and wool gloves 1 year

› Cotton rope 14 months

› Plywood 3 years

› Painted wooden stick 13 years

› Styrofoam cup and tin can 50 years

› Styrofoam buoy 80 years

› Aluminum can 200 years

› Disposable diapers and plastic bottle 450 years

› Monofilament fishing line 600 years

› Glass bottle and jar undetermined



* Information sourced from US Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program


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