Federal Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke: “Plastic litter in the environment has become an enormous problem that is particularly harmful to marine life and humans. Plastic waste in the seas is part of the three-fold crisis that we face worldwide. The signal for a strong and binding international agreement against plastic waste and for more protection of the oceans must come out of the current round of UN negotiations. Today’s round table serves as a way to pool our national insights and experiences so they may enter the international negotiation process. I am particularly committed to focusing on the beginning of the supply chain and preventing plastic waste wherever possible. Recycling can make an important contribution, but there are limits to using materials at the end of a life cycle. That’s why it’s important to me to start already with the design of products.”
Christian Meyer, Minister for Environment of Lower Saxony: “Our seas are not dumping grounds, particularly not for long-lasting plastic, but instead a valuable ecosystem. Lower Saxony is a coastal state, dependent on the sea and closely connected to the protection of the sea. Our Natural World Heritage Site, the Wadden Sea, is a unique habitat for fish as well as many migratory and resting birds. Fisheries, tourism, the Wadden Sea National Parks, shipping and off-shore industries – all of these make clear the degree to which protecting the marine environment is present in our daily lives. Particularly when it comes to the issue of waste in the sea. Waste pollution must be effectively reduced at the point of generation, perhaps by banning single-use packaging and disposable plastic items. It’s horrifying how much plastic waste we find in and around the sea. Efforts against single-use plastic are therefore just as important as environmental education in the national park facilities, for example. But beach trash clean-ups and fishing-for-litter initiatives also reduce waste pollution and create awareness of the overall problem.”
German Environment Agency President Dirk Messner: “The Marine Litter Round Table relies on the direct involvement of all relevant social groups to develop tailored solutions to the multiple land-based and sea-based sources of waste inputs to the seas. In the future, this unique body must be even better integrated into the implementation of political guidelines to which Germany has committed itself nationally and internationally in the fight against environmental pollution from plastic.”
Currently, around 130 experts are participating in the Marine Litter Round Table, including representatives from fisheries, shipping, industry and retail, science, and tourism as well as environmental organizations, agencies, politicians and artists. Besides keeping track of measures, it plays an important role as a platform for information and cooperation.
A wide variety of results have emerged from the collaboration to date. Among others, they include a provision of action guidelines on best practice examples and legal options for municipalities to reduce plastic waste generation. An issue paper on microplastic inputs to the marine environment was published, outlining the state of knowledge and the priority measures that are needed. The products also include recommendations for avoiding and safely recovering ghost nets, disposing of fishing gear from fisheries, and educational concepts for different age groups, as well as guidance on conducting environmentally sound coastal trash pick-up events. Last but not least, an educational concept for different age groups and sectors was presented.
Following referrals to the G7 and the G20 countries within the framework of German leadership, most recently in 2022, the international community launched an important initiative last year in Nairobi with the mandate for a legally binding UN agreement to combat plastic pollution of the environment and oceans.
Parallel to the Marine Litter Round Table, negotiations are currently underway in Paris, under the aegis of the United Nations, for this plastic agreement, which is to be adopted in the coming year. National prevention plans are planned for future implementation. As an existing national network, the Marine Litter Round Table is predestined to provide support in the long term here.