Reducing Plastic Waste in the Marine Environment Through Waste Abatement Campaigns and Government Policies

Plastic production is increasing globally, and in turn, there is a rise in plastic waste lost in the coastal and marine environment. To combat this issue, there has been an increase in policies that target specific types of plastic waste (such as microbeads and plastic shopping bags). Given that such anthropogenic waste has environmental impacts, reduces the tourism income of an area, and results in human health issues, identifying effective abatement policies is imperative to reducing waste and litter before it enters the ocean.

Councils that invest in waste management and have a budget specifically for coastal waste management have less debris on their coastlines. However, the size of the coastal investment does not make a difference. Generally speaking, councils that apply 8% or more of their total budget towards waste management have lower waste loads on their coastline. Providing funds for coastal waste management suggests those councils are aware of the marine debris issue and are actively trying to prevent it. In this blog, investment in outreach programs in combination with waste facilities was associated with a larger and more predictable reduction in waste than investment in policies. For example, educating a community on recycling and providing each household with a recycling bin and curbside collection service could be associated with a reduction in coastal waste mismanagement.

Programs that target specific waste streams are effective in reducing coastal waste. The different studies showed that implementing the combination of recycling, litter prevention, and illegal dumping (i.e., litter > 200 L) programs into a council is the best at reducing waste on a coastline. Recycling and litter prevention programs target the removal of waste before it enters the environment. The programs focus on educating the individual user on why and how to dispose of their waste correctly. The results showed that councils that provide litter education programs have significantly less waste on their coastlines. Raising public awareness through education programs is an effective way of reducing marine debris, as it creates a sense of environmental responsibility in participants. Education programs have successfully reduced waste in Europe, Malaysia, and the United States. For example, in the European initiative MARLISCO, five of the top eleven best practices included marine debris awareness programs.

Littering, both directly (via beach visitors) and indirectly (via transport by wind and water), increases waste loads on a beach. Hence, it is expected that an anti-litter campaign, such as litter prevention, would have a strong effect on reducing coastal waste loads. Illegal dumping programs target waste disposed of in the environment, typically far away from coastal sites. Illegal dumping is suggested as a major indirect driver of high coastal waste loads via transport by wind and water to the coast. Wetlands and creeks in urban margins in low socioeconomic regions have high waste loads, relative to other sites, suggesting that material littered or dumped in these sites may be easily transported to the coast during flooding events. The high levels of coastal debris near isolated areas at urban margins, which they associated with illegal dumping, The inclusion of both litter prevention and illegal dumping programs by StepAIC indicates they are independent. Hence, councils that implement both an illegal dumping and litter prevention program will see larger reductions in coastal waste than a council that just implements one of the programs.


The integrated solutions are the most effective in the world at reducing coastal waste loads. A model including recycling, litter prevention, and illegal dumping programs was better at reducing waste loads than any single-term model. The inclusion of recycling, litter prevention, and illegal dumping in the final model could indicate the major sources of waste along coastlines. Councils with illegal dumping programs, litter prevention programs, and recycling programs had significantly less waste along their coasts than councils without those programs. Additionally, councils that invest at least 8% of their budget in waste management and focus a proportion of that budget on coastal waste management will also have less waste on their coastline.

About the Author:

Syed Asad Raza, Waqar Ul Abbas, and Zain Ahmad are environmentalists who are passionate to raise awareness about environmental problems and sustainable development.



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