Spectacular and disturbing images of animals trapped in plastic trash and enormous gyres of floating litter have led to an increased public awareness of marine debris in recent years. Still, pollution has been accelerating—it is estimated that, at the current pace, 12,000Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050. A study of 2018 suggests that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone consists of at least 79 thousand tonnes of ocean plastic within an area of 1.6 million km². But plastic is not the only component: glass, paper, cloth, wood, metal, and rubber also contribute to the amount of floating trash. Electronic waste is another major problem. It often contains hazardous materials, for example mercury in LCD monitors. In 1989, the Basel Convention was negotiated. It is a treaty that regulates the disposal and transboundary movements of hazardous waste. Until then, e-waste had often been shipped to developing countries where it was not recycled in a safe manner. As of 2022, 190 parties have ratified the convention. In 2019, plastic waste was included as a regulated material in an amendment to the Basel Convention. The United States, with 42.0Mt produced annually and the biggest producer of plastic trash in the world, objected to this. However, since the USA signed but never ratified the Basel Convention, they were not involved in the vote.
Sources: Lebreton, L. et al., “Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic”,Scientific Reports, vol. 8, (2018).
Geyer, R.; J. R. Jambeck and K. L. Law, “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made”, Science Advances, vol. 3, (2017).https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1700782
Filho, Walter Leal; Julian Hunt and Marina Kovaleva, “Garbage Patches and Their Environmental Implications in a Plastisphere”,Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, vol. 9, issue. 11, (2021).
Law, Kara Lavender et al.,”The United States’ contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean”, Science Advances, vol. 6, issue. 44, (2020).