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The Mediterranean Sea is one of the areas most affected by Marine litter worldwide.

Indeed, its densely populated, very urbanized coasts accommodate 30% of all maritime traffic and highly developed tourism.

Coastal landfills and discharges, industrial and urban outfalls, tourism, shipping, fishing and aquaculture and illegal dumping can cause serious damage.

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Furthermore, rivers and floodwaters carry litter from other inland areas, and because of the basin’s limited exchanges with other oceans, the litter accumulates inside the basin

Poor practices of solid waste management, wastewater collection and treatment, lack of infrastructure and public awareness aggravate the situation substantially.


The generation of marine litter is linked to a variety of human activities and policy areas, and a better management of these human activities is therefore a prerequisite to avoid plastic litter entering the marine environment.

In the recent years, a wide array of stakeholders, governments, businesses and regional organisations suggested ways forward in order to address marine litter. Actions contributing to the reduction through regional, nationally or coordinated international measures include key strategies.

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The Mediterranean Action Plan


By adopting the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean (RPML) in 2013, the Mediterranean became the first regional sea with contracting parties committed to legally binding measures, programmes, and related implementation timetables on management at regional and national levels. At the same time, it contributes to the Marine litter global initiatives (Honolulu strategy, SDG14, G7, G20 and UNEA). 

The major objective of the RPML is to achieve a good environmental status through the prevention and reduction of marine litter and by limiting its environmental, health, and socio-economic impacts to a minimum.

Most of the measures aim at improving solid waste management, removing existing marine litter and eliminating hot spots. 



Marine litter in the Mediterranean is a confirmed critical issue. The 2015 UN Environment/MAP Marine Litter Assessment report provides detailed information and data on waste and plastic inputs to the sea, sources of litter, changes in their composition and transport patterns for the four compartments of the marine environment (beaches, surface, seabed, and marine organisms).

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In the framework of the Ecosystem Approach Roadmap adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 2008, the Mediterranean Action Plan has delivered in 2017 the first ever Quality Status Report for the Mediterranean, building upon existing data and complemented with inputs from numerous sources when appropriate. The report serves as the baseline for defining the measures for progressing towards Good Environmental Status in the Mediterranean and sharpening the monitoring programmes.

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Within the framework of its EU-funded Marine Litter MED Project, UN Environment/MAP Barcelona Convention has brought together major actors to enhance marine litter regional governance. The Regional Cooperation Platform on Marine Litter in the Mediterraneanwas established at the invitation of the UN Environment/MAP in September 2016.


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The Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention adopted, in 2016 (COP 19, Athens), the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast and Related Assessment Criteria (IMAP). IMAP describes the strategy, themes, and products to deliver in the framework of the UN Environment/MAP Barcelona Convention during the second cycle of the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach Process in 2016-2021.

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International binding agreements with relevance to the issue of marine plastic litter and microplastics vary in scope, objectives, applicable approaches and principles, including reporting and compliance requirements. These include Pollution oriented agreements (UNCLOS, the London Convention, the Annex V of MARPOL), Biodiversity and species-oriented agreements (CBD, UN Fish stocks Agreement) and Chemicals and waste oriented agreements (Stockholm and Basel conventions).

United Nations related initiatives

Marine pollution from land-based sources is addressed in the voluntary/soft law Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. The programme is designed to be a source of conceptual..


The EU-funded Marine Litter MED Project

The overall objective of EU-funded Marine litter MED projects is to support UN Environment/MAP Barcelona Convention and its Contracting Parties through the implementation of the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management..


G7 and G20 Action Plans on Marine Litter

The Implementation of the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter, mainstreaming the work of the Regional Seas Programmes include capacity building and sharing of best practices, ongoing coordination with European Regional Seas conventions..


The Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP)

Sustainable consumption and production, related to the UN SDG goal 12 is about sustainable infrastructure, and access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all..



The continuous growth in the amount of solid waste is an economic, environmental, human health and aesthetic problem posing a complex and multi-dimensional challenge.

Under the UN Environment/MAP, representatives of 22 Governments endorsed the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean (RPML).

To support this regional plan, UN Environment/MAP, through its various projects, is assembling governments, international agencies, NGOs, academia, private sector, civil society and individuals.

Together, they are working to reduce the impacts of marine litter on economies, ecosystems, animal welfare and human health. 

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Mediterranean organisations like MIO-ECSDE, Medassset, legambiante and many local groups are bringing their longstanding experience in advocacy, awareness raising and networking on marine litter issues.

All are working through a combination of approaches including public exhibitions, information campaigns, and a legacy of educational and decision-supporting tools. 



The Mediterranean countries share a common historical and cultural legacy, often built through maritime links dating back millennia. They are currently working towards a common future with shared scientific, cultural and environmental aspirations.

As a recent example, the regional plan of action on marine litter, the first ever coordinated action plan of the United Nations on this topic, was launched in 2013, bringing together all the actors in a harmonized approach. The focus is on addressing pollution, putting in place effective actions, which requires relevant knowledge and research with an important contribution from Mediterranean scientists to this field.