Towards Osaka Blue Ocean Vision - G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter


Actions and Progress on Marine Plastic Litter
Last Update : 2020/04/02

Policy framework

2017: National legislative measure aiming at reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags.
2017: National legislative measure: ban of plastic cotton buds sticks by 2019 and ban of plastic microbeds in cosmetics by 2020.
2015: National legislative measure to reduce the improper discarding of small and micro waste (receipts, chewingum, tissues, cigarette butts, etc.) in the environment.
In particular, municipalities shall install special containers for the collection of cigarette butts in the streets, in parks and high social gathering places. Tobacco producers shall implement information campaigns, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, with the aim to raise consumer awareness about the harmful consequences for the environment resulting from the littering of cigarette butts.

In recent years, Italy has paid great attention to the issue of marine plastic litter and is strongly committed to face this challenge, especially in the framework of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, (under which the G7 “Action plan to combat marine litter” is implemented in the Mediterranean region).
A synergistic approach is followed, which links aspects related to prevention to those related to the control, monitoring and removal of marine litter, especially plastics, and including the seabed. Campaigns for raising awareness, education and research have been promoted and are ongoing.

Another important policy framework, in line with objectives of the Barcelona Convention, is the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD), that establishes a framework within which EU Member States shall take action to achieve or maintain good environmental status (GES) of their marine waters by 2020. GES is based on 11 qualitative descriptors and “marine litter” is one of them: EU Member States are requested to ensure that, by 2020, “properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment”.

Concerning the cooperation activities undertaken under the Barcelona Convention, in September 2016 a relevant Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) and UNEP/ MAP, funded by IMELS (4,5 million euros).
One the 4 components of the project refers specifically to Marine Litter and includes three work streams:
– Fishing for Litter and Port Reception Facilities;
– Initiatives to identify gaps and issues to better understand the topic of sea-based sources (implementation of MARPOL Annex V – G7 Marine Litter Action Plan);
– Assessment of ML hot spots at sea in areas close to selected SPAMIs (Special Protection Area of Mediterranean Interest), with a focus on developing a common methodology for hot spot accumulation assessment.
All the activities include public awareness initiatives.


“Salvamare” (“Save the Sea”): Legislative proposal to promote circular economy by regulating the removal of plastics waste from the sea.

Mainly focused on plastic waste accidentally catched by fishermen, the legislative proposal also promotes voluntary campaign of “cleaning sea” carried out by environmental NGOs as well as public awareness initiatives.

Plastic free campaign (#PFC) is an initiative aimed at reduce single-use plastics in public and private offices.

On 12 June 2018 the Italian Minister of the Environment launched the initiative “Plastic Free Challenge (#PFC)”, a challenge that aims to involve as many people, companies and institutions as possible, to commit themselves to eliminating single-use plastics. The Minister extended the appeal to other national and local institutions (Ministries, Regions, Municipalities, etc.) and invited everyone to tweet their commitment to free themselves from plastics with the hashtag #PFC.

The Ministry of the Environment has therefore adopted a set of measures aimed at the elimination of single-use plastics, including:

  • The elimination of plastic beverage bottles from the vending machines
  • The installation of natural or sparkling water dispensers
  • Free distribution to employees of reusable aluminum bottles
  • The replacement in the vending machines of plastic cups with paper ones, and of plastic stirrers with wooden ones
  • The elimination of single-use products in the Ministry’s kindergarten.

The initiative is voluntary. Dozens of local authorities and institutions have already joined the initiative and the number is still increasing. The list of the participants at the challenge is published on the website of the Ministry of Environment.

Memorandum of Understanding with the Italian Olimpic Games Committee

In 2019 the Minister of Environment, Land and Sea signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Olimpic Games Committee (CONI). The agreement aims at promoting sustainability in sports events in particular by reducing plastic waste.

Removal initiatives

In 2017-2018 the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea signed agreements for the collection and management of waste found on the seabed of selected ports near marine protected areas. These agreements involve Port authorities, agencies in charge of the marine protected areas, municipalities, environmental associations, local fisheries and scuba diving associations. The objective of the agreement is to identify an integrated system for the collection and the management of waste removed from the seabed, also through education and training initiatives for fisheries and diving associations, aimed at identifying the best procedures and possibly extending them to other ports. Main activities within the agreement:

  • provision of containers for the collection of waste removed from the seabed to fishermen and Marine Protected Area agencies;
  • identification of suitable sites for the delivery of waste and positioning of boxes and/or containers clearly identified for the separate collection of waste;
  • awareness and education activities oriented to the Marine Protected Areas visitors and to fisheries and scuba diving associations on the proper management of waste generated by these activities;
  • training activities on separate collection;
  • promotion of virtuous behaviour oriented to the prevention and/or reduction of littering;
  • awareness initiatives oriented to scuba diving professionals to report on any waste “hot spot” found out during their dives

Agreement “Tuscany – fishing for litter”

In 2018 the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, local authorities, environmental NGO, Port authorities, private companies signed that agreement. It provides the framework for the development of an innovative pilot project to promote proper waste collection and integrated management of plastic waste collected by fishermen during fishing operations. The project also promotes the awareness of all the stakeholders involved.

On the basis of the good results of this Agreement, a new and more ambitious Memorandum of Understanding is to be launched in the next months. It will consider not only plastics waste but also other waste streams and will involve more actors.

EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive – MFSD

The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive – MFSD is implemented through a national Program of Measures (PoM), that, with specific reference to marine litter (ML), includes activities related to removal actions at sea, monitoring, outreach, and research. These activities are also in line with the EcAP process (Ecosystem Approach) of the Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea.

The monitoring program carried out under the PoM addresses: Microplastics on the sea water surface; Beach litter; Seafloor litter (data collected through fisheries surveys); Habitat monitoring of white corals in offshore areas (“ghost nets“ and other waste on the seabed).

The actions of the PoM, in the field of ML focus on :

  • waste management related to fishing and aquaculture activities, including discarded fishing gear, encouraging, when possible, its re-use, recycling and recovery;
  • waste collection and disposal chain for waste accidentally collected by fishermen (fishing for litter, that are encouraged to dispose at the port the litter collected during fishing activities, free or charge
  • Public Awareness Initiatives with the involvement of Stakeholders, including measures specifically targeted to fishermen and aquaculture industry.

Contact details

Sergio Cristofanelli
Directorate General for Waste and Pollution

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