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1) Develop a new international plastic marine litter treaty of the scale and scope of the Montreal Protocol. The agreement should incorporate enforceable marine litter standards as well as strong tracking, monitoring, reporting, and enforcement mechanisms, including adequate penalties and the establishment of jurisdiction for party dispute resolution before an international tribunal.
2) Through a new international treaty and regional and domestic action, ban the most common and damaging types of plastic marine litter (e.g., microbeads, fish-egg-sized nurdles, single-use plastic bags, and polystyrene foam food packaging), and phase out all plastics that are not recycled at a rate of 75 percent or more by a certain date. Support the development of and transition to substitutes.
3) Create and implement a voluntary “Ocean Friendly” certification program for all plastic products that commonly result in marine litter. The program should include common-sense certification standards for: minimum recycled plastic content; incorporation of easily-recyclable plastic; sustainable single-use packaging design; ocean plastic degradability; and phase-out particularly harmful manufacturing materials such as nurdles.
4) Expand Extended Producer Responsibility programs, with the stipulation that such programs must be designed to result in high recovery rates of plastics and the phase-out of environmentally harmful materials.
5) Expand and strengthen existing regional agreements and other international agreements relevant to plastic marine litter by incorporating enforceable marine litter standards, closing loopholes, strengthening penalties, and supporting improved enforcement.
6) Create and implement certification and tracking programs for fishing and aquaculture operations through regional fisheries management organizations and other relevant institutions. Programs should require logs to track lost fishing gear; require traceable tags on nets; and encourage the use of more sustainable materials in aquaculture gear.
7) Establish funding sources for marine litter remediation through product redemption fees and shipping container fees, such as a port fee of 1 dollar per shipping container. Impose fees or taxes on the most common types of plastic marine litter (e.g., single-use plastic bags, cigarettes, and expanded polystyrene foam).
8) Expand the use of “zero-trash” Total Maximum Daily Loads or similar requirements within urban coastal watersheds in the United States and internationally. Sources of marine litter should be identified and assigned a waste load allocation of zero trash to be achieved within a decade.
9) Accelerate efforts to clean up beaches and existing marine litter. Clean-up efforts should focus on plastic marine litter hotspots and all regions of the marine environment that are affected by plastic marine litter, including coastlines, coral reefs, the seafloor, and the deep ocean.
10) Improve our understanding of the plastic marine litter problem by funding research and data collection regarding the main sources of plastic marine litter; its effects on human health, the environment, and the economy; and the most effective means of control. Expand public education programs to raise awareness of the plastic marine litter crisis.
Gold, Mark, Katie Mika, Cara Horowitz, Megan Herzog, & Lara Leitner. 2013. Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter: A Global Action Agenda. Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Briefs, Policy Brief No. 5, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law. October 2013.
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