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

the United Kingdom

Actions and Progress on Marine Plastic Litter
Last Update : 2021/09/09

Policy framework

National Action Plan

Name: United Kingdom

UK Marine Strategy
The UK Marine Strategy provides the framework for assessing and taking measures to achieve and maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) in UK seas. It covers a wide range of biodiversity and marine environment descriptors including marine litter.

In March 2021 an updated UK Marine Strategy Part Two was published, setting out the monitoring programmes that will be used to assess progress towards updated GES targets, published in the updated UK Marine Strategy Part One in 2019. The UK Marine Strategy Part Three sets out a programme of measures for achieving or maintaining GES. We aim to publish an update to Part Three by the end of 2021.
UK Plastics Pact

By 2025, The UK Plastics Pact will transform the UK plastic packaging sector by meeting four world-leading targets.

  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • Eliminate problematic single-use items.
  • 30% averaged recycled content across all packaging

Pre-production plastic pellets
Pre-production plastic pellets (nurdles) are the basic feedstock used in the production of plastic items. They can be lost from the supply chain and enter the environment. It’s estimated that up to 53 billion nurdles are lost each year, and they are one of the biggest sources of microplastic in the marine environment. To address this issue UK is working with the British-Irish Council and with the British Plastics Federation to strengthen Operation Clean Sweep, an international initiative which aims to reduce plastic pellet loss to the environment. The scheme ensures that companies train staff to sweep up spills, have the facilities to dispose of spilt pellets and cover drains to prevent run-off.
25 Year Environment Plan. This plan sets out the UK government’s plan to improve the environment within a generation, including the approach to tackling marine pollution of all kinds and in particular material that came originally from land.

Name: England

Brief description:
The Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in 2018, contains commitments towards reducing marine plastic pollution through circular economy policy
measures and international cooperation.

Litter Strategy for England. One way in which waste ends up in the marine environment is through littering that occurs on land. We published the Litter Strategy for England in April 2017, setting out our aim to deliver a substantial reduction in litter and littering within a generation. The Litter Strategy brings together communities, businesses, charities and schools to bring about real change by focusing on three key themes: education and awareness; improving enforcement; and better cleaning and access to bins. We publish a dashboard of different indicators each year to monitor the extent of litter and littering in England.

Waste Prevention Programme for England. This strategy sets out, in detail, how we will work with communities and businesses to reduce litter. We will also create a new way of monitoring how much litter there is in England, to help us know whether the strategy is working.

Name: Scotland

Brief description:
Marine litter strategy for Scotland ( This is currently under review, with a refreshed Strategy due for consultation in 2021 with an increased focus on marine litter removal. It provides the framework for marine litter policy and legislation development by improving relevant public and business behaviours, reducing sources, improving monitoring and strengthening co-ordination nationally and internationally. As the majority of marine litter comes from land, The Marine Litter Strategy is closely linked with our terrestrial strategy for litter and fly-tipping; Towards a Litter-Free Scotland. This is also under review with a refreshed version due out for consultation in 2021. Fly-tipping, coastal or otherwise, comes under the Rural Crime Strategy, 2019-2022. The improved management of plastic as a material is targeted through our circular economy strategy; Scotland: Making Things Last – A Circular Economy Strategy

Name: Northern Ireland

Brief description:
The Northern Ireland Waste Prevention Programme. Reviewed in 2019 and an interim revised programme with 22 actions was published July 2020 to provide a short extension to the programme pending the introduction of a new Circular Economy Waste Package (CEWP).

Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy, was published in 2013 and an update is expected to take place during 2021.

Name: Wales

Brief description:
Wales Waste Prevention Programme – 2013-2050 The Waste Prevention Programme will ensure that householders and businesses in Wales are able to reduce:

  • The quantity of waste, including through the reuse of products or the extension of the life span of products.
  • The adverse impacts of the generated waste on the environment and human health.
  • The content of harmful substances in materials and products.

The Wales Clean Seas Partnership developed the Marine Litter Action Plan for Wales collaboratively with Welsh Government in 2020.

Legal framework

Name: United Kingdom-wide legislation

Brief description
The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 ( The Marine Strategy Regulations (2010) require necessary measures to be taken to achieve or maintain GES in UK seas. To help assess progress against GES it is broken down into 11 qualitative descriptors, including marine litter. These regulations make it law for the Secretary of State to produce indicators and targets and review these periodically.

Ongoing Shipping Regulations with Amendments

  • The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2020
  • The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Port Waste Reception Facilities) 2003 (as amended)
  • IMO Action Plan for Marine Litter from Ships 2018

These measures incorporate international standards to prohibit the discharge of garbage (including fishing gear) into the sea from ships and ensuring adequate port waste reception facilities. They provide a framework to prevent the discharges of garbage in UK controlled waters and for ships to deliver their waste ashore to port waste reception facilities.

London Convention 1972 (Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter) and 1996 Protocol; and OSPAR Convention 1999 – These promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and the need to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter including bulky items of iron, steel and concrete. OSPAR is developing a new North East Atlantic Environment Strategy (NEAES), which will set OSPAR’s strategic direction up until 2030 and will include objectives on marine litter. The Strategy will be agreed and launched in September 2021.

The UK is a Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The requirements of the Basel Convention have been fully implemented in UK law through the European Waste Shipment Regulations and the UK Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations.
Recognising the difficulties experienced by some countries in managing plastic waste, the Environment Bill contains regulation-making powers which will allow Government to ban the export of waste, including plastic waste, to non-OECD countries. We will consult

with industry, NGOs and local authorities on the date that the proposed ban should be achieved.


  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended) (England, Wales and Scotland)
  • Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 (as amended)
  • Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (England and Wales)
  • Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (England) 2007)
  • Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011)
  • Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (Scotland) 2006
  • Marine Strategy Regulations 2010

These make littering a criminal offence, set out the standards that land managers (primarily local authorities) are expected to meet in keeping their land clear of litter, including beaches above mean high water springs, and provide local authorities with powers to take enforcement action against littering. Councils also have a number of other relevant powers in respect of maintaining public amenity and controlling anti-social behaviour.

Landfill Tax – Landfill Tax was introduced on 1 October 1996 to encourage waste producers and the waste management industry to switch to more sustainable alternatives for disposing of material. There is a lower rate of tax, which applies to less polluting qualifying materials covered by two Treasury Orders, and a standard rate, which applies to all other taxable material disposed of at authorised landfill sites.

Previously, the tax applied across the UK but from 1 April 2015 it was devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Parliament/ Senedd Cymru from 1 April 2018 in Wales.

Voluntary Measures
Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard – This is a scheme, developed by SeaFish (the public body supporting the seafood industry in the UK) and Global Seafood Assurances, which promotes responsible waste management to help prevent marine litter. This replaced the Responsible Fishing Scheme.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) – This provides a framework for national and international efforts to ensure sustainable exploitation of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment. It includes retrieval of lost or abandoned fishing and aquaculture gear (and fragments of gear) and banning of dumping. Whilst the code is voluntary the UK’s SeaFish organisation and the Marine Stewardship Council (which certifies sustainable seafood) are signed up to it.

Legislation by administration

– Name: England

– Brief description:
There are a range of legislative measures in place to combat litter and littering in England. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (s87) makes it a criminal offence to litter and section 88 provides for litter authorities to issue fixed penalty notices, otherwise known as an ‘on-the-spot fine’, as an alternative to prosecution. Section 89 requires local councils to keep their public land clear of litter and refuse. The standards that councils are expected to achieve in meeting this statutory duty are set out in the statutory Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.

The Environmental Protection Regulations 2020
The Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020. We introduced legislation to introduce restrictions on the supply of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, with some exemptions, e.g. for medical reasons.

Litter and refuse: code of practice (updated 2019)

– Name: Northern Ireland

– Brief description:
The Waste (Circular Economy) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, came into effect in Northern Ireland on 18 December 2020. The legislation includes requirements for measures to ensure better compliance with the waste hierarchy, a widening of the scope of waste streams that must be separately collected and incrementally increasing recycling targets. It also defines specific recycling targets for packaging, requires specific measures for littering and sets minimum requirements for all extended producer responsibility schemes.
Guidance to district councils: litter (updated 2012)

– Name: Scotland

– Brief description:

  • The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Regulations 2014
  • The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Scotland) 2018
  • The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) 2019
  • The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 All drinks containers up to 3l including plastic bottles.
  • (Draft) Environmental Protection (Single-Use Plastic Products and Oxo-degradable Plastic Products) (Scotland) 2021
  • Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (2018)
  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 – Fixed penalty notices of £80 can be issued for littering, or following prosecution a fine can be charged of up to £2,500. Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 – A fly-tipping fixed penalty notice of £200 can be issued, or on prosecution an individual can be sentenced to imprisonment and risk a fine of up to £40,000
  • To enable activities to remove litter without licenses – The Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) (Scottish Inshore Region) Order 2011

Name: Wales

Brief description
The Welsh Government Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse is under review and is expected to be published 2021.


The UK Marine Strategy uses marine litter as an indicator of clean seas, showing changes to the amount of litter in the marine environment, including litter on beaches, on the seafloor and floating litter. Beach litter surveys are completed annually or quarterly and cover a representative number of beaches. Data from trawl surveys, typically carried out for fish stock assessments, are used to monitor the amount of litter on the seafloor. After each tow all litter items are emptied from the net and counted and classified. Beached fulmars or individuals accidently killed are collected as part of a monitoring programme in the Greater North Sea to assess the plastics found in their stomachs. Fulmars forage exclusively at sea, generally at the surface of the water. The amount of plastic they ingest can be used as a proxy for the abundance of floating litter in their environment and how this is changing. Indicators for seafloor litter, beach litter and litter found in Fulmar stomachs have been developed and expert groups are working to improve the data. Additional monitoring programmes are being developed to record the amount of microplastics in sediment and in biota.

The UK Marine Strategy Part One assessment indicators of beach litter, seabed litter and plastic particles in fulmar stomachs are also used for reporting to the OSPAR monitoring and assessment programme. These allow the abundance, trends and composition of marine litter in the OSPAR Maritime Area to be determined for different marine compartments (floating, seafloor and coast). OSPAR is currently also working to develop new indicators, including microplastics in sediments. The microplastics indicator will address levels in marine sediments and will cover the whole OSPAR Maritime Area. The Microplastics in Sediment Expert Group at OSPAR is led by Cefas.




Prevention and reduction of plastic waste generation

Charge for single-use plastic products

The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) (Amendment) Order 2021 Since 5th October 2015, large retailers in England have been required by law to charge 5p for all single use plastic carrier bags. On 21 May 2021, the charge was increased to 10p and extended to all retailers. Single Use Carrier Bags Charge legislation. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales this applies to all retailers:

Northern Ireland: From 2015, the levy charge was extended to carrier bags of any material with a 5p levy.

  • Scotland: the carrier bag minimum charge increased from 5p to 10p in April 2021.

Wales: In 2019 the efficacy of the bag charge was reviewed to inform future actions regarding changes in levies or charging scope.

The Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020
We introduced legislation to introduce restrictions on the supply of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, with some exemptions, e.g. for medical reasons.

We see a positive improvement from last two years

Due to Covid-19 a small number of retailers notified us that they were unable to provide data. In addition, from 21 March 2020 retailers in England did not need to charge for bags used in online grocery deliveries. Non-essential retailers also closed on the 23rd March 2020. These changes affect the last two weeks of the 2019 to 2020 reporting period.

Numerical data if any:
The total number of single use plastic bags sold by all retailers who reported in 2019 to 2020 was 564 million, a 49% decrease on the figures reported by all retailers in 2018 to 2019. Further details can be found here:

We estimate that annual plastic straw usage in England will drop from 4.7 billion down to around 264 million. We plan to review the effectiveness of the policy after a year.

Below the surface:
Twenty-five years of seafloor litter monitoring in coastal seas of North West Europe (1992–2017) – ScienceDirect (Maes et al. 2018) showed significant trend in plastic bags (down).

Actions for encouraging sustainable / circular product design

Through the Resources and Waste Strategy for England we have committed to:

  • Work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
  • Ban plastic products where there is a clear case for it and alternatives exist
  • Stimulate demand for recycled plastic by introducing a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic
  • Eliminate consumer single-use plastics from the central Government estate

Sustainable Production Goals

  • Invoke the ‘polluter pays’ principle and extend producer responsibility for packaging, ensuring that producers pay the full-net costs of disposal for packaging they place on the market. Modulate producers’ fees and introduce packaging recycling targets to increase greater recycling rates, reduce the amount of packaging used, and encourage the
    use of reusable and refillable alternatives. Include the cost of managing littered packaging within full-net costs to incentivise producers to reduce the prevalence of their packaging in the litter stream.
  • Introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise increased recycling of in-scope drinks containers.
  • Stimulate demand for recycled plastic by introducing a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic. This tax will affect UK producers of plastic packaging, importers of plastic packaging, business customers of producers and importers of plastic packaging, and consumers who buy goods in plastic packaging in the UK. The objective of this tax is to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled materials in the production of plastic packaging, which will create greater demand for these materials and in turn stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration. The introduction of this tax will encourage a shift to recycled content in plastic packaging. This could have positive environmental benefits thanks to the reduction of raw material extraction during the production process.
  • Harness the potential of extended producer responsibility for other product types
  • Set minimum
    requirements through eco-design to encourage resource efficient product design
  • Manage chemicals sustainably and address barriers to reuse and recycling posed by their use, through a Chemicals Strategy
  • Develop a model for realising resource efficiency savings, working with businesses through ‘resource efficiency clusters’

The UK is supporting the development of a standard for circular design of fishing gear through CEN (European Committee for Standarisation) Work has commenced, with expected delivery end of 2024.

Regulation on microplastics

In 2018 the UK launched one the world’s toughest bans on the sale and manufacture of microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, helping to prevent billions of tiny plastic pieces from entering the ocean every year.

Plastic Pellets
In 2019, the British Irish Council Ministers recognised the need to address pellets as a source of microplastics and committed to learn from a trial supply-chain approach in Scotland. The administrations have supported the development of a Publicly Available Specification developed by the British Standards Institution, which sets out how any business handling or managing pellets can reduce pellet loss. This is the first of its kind and will be published in July 2021

Numerical data if any:
Microbead impact assessment:

The UK has committed to a ban on exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries

The UK Government has committed to consulting on options to deliver a ban on plastic waste exports to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and work is underway to make this happen.

We plan to consult before the end of 2022 on options to deliver the ban and, as a precursor to that consultation, Defra has commissioned research to better understand existing plastic waste recycling capacity in the UK and OECD member countries. This research will be key to the development of policy options to implement the commitment.




Environmentally sound waste management

Enforcement of proper waste management system

The following acts and regulations are in place to enforce proper waste management:

  1. Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999. Regulation making powers for a pollution control system and for other measures to prevent and control pollution.
  2. Environmental Protection Act 1990. Defines the structure and authority for waste management and control of emissions into the environment.
  3. Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. A framework for environmental regulation, guidance, compliance monitoring and enforcement tools.

Port Waste
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK is seeking to review and engage with stakeholders to gain their views on the effectiveness and adequacy of the current Port Waste Reception Facility regime. Stakeholder engagement will provide the necessary evidence to inform potential policy options to ensure the Regime remains relevant to the UK and that it continues to offer robust environmental protection. The review will also take into consideration best practices from other international Port Waste Reception Facility regimes.

Trapping or screening of drainage / rivers
Many storm overflows which discharge into rivers or the sea from the combined sewerage system in England do have screens. The requirement for screens is set as a condition of the Environmental Permit for discharge.
Trapping or screening drainage / rivers can result in the retention of solids and can create a maintenance issue. The preferred option is to deal with litter / flushed items at source, although not always practicable.

Prevention of littering, illegal dumping and unintentional leakage of waste into the ocean

The UK is a signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. MARPOL Annex V seeks to eliminate and reduce the amount of garbage being discharged into the sea from ships and includes a ban on the disposal into the sea of plastics and fishing gear, in addition to other types of garbage.

The UK’s Regulations on the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships 2020 (S.I. 2020/621) brings in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships (MARPOL Annex V) into UK law.

Under the Regulations, discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited with very limited exceptions. In all cases the discharge of plastic is prohibited.

The Regulations require fishing vessels to record the discharge or loss of fishing gear in the Garbage Record Book or ship’s logbook, and require fishing vessels to report the accidental loss or discharge of fishing gear which poses a significant threat to the marine environment or navigation.

Under the Regulations it is an offence to fail to report the discharge of fishing gear which poses a significant threat to the marine environment or navigation to (a) the ship’s flag State and (b) any coastal state who has jurisdiction over the waters where the loss or discharge occurs.
The UK’s Port Waste Reception Facilities Regulations (S.I. 2003/1809) put legal obligations on ports and vessels to manage ship generated waste. All ports and terminals must provide adequate Port Waste Reception Facilities for waste generated by ships. Ships including fishing vessels are required to deliver their ship generated waste to the port waste reception facilities. The UK will be carrying out a review of the current UK regulations on Port Waste Reception Facilities which will commencing in 2021.

Links to regulations:
The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Port Waste Reception Facilities) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/1809), further information can be found here.

The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/621), further information can be found here.


The UK has committed to review and consult on measures such as extended producer responsibly schemes for fishing gear containing plastic and schemes for textiles by 2022.




Cleanup of marine plastic litter

Collection of scattered waste on beach

The Great British Beach Clean (Marine Conservation Society)

Brief description:
The Great British Beach Clean is a week-long citizen science event, where hundreds of beach cleans take place up and down the UK. Litter data collected drives our conservation work and also feeds into the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC).

Removal of plastic litter from the ocean

KIMO Fishing for Litter

Brief description:
The UK supports Fishing for Litter, and the development of similar local schemes. This is a voluntary, unpaid litter bycatch removal scheme by commercial fishermen, run by KIMO, which provides fishing boats with bags to dispose of marine-sourced litter collected during normal fishing operations.

To tackle marine litter, the UK is addressing the issue domestically and internationally, taking a whole-life cycle approach that will prevent and divert material from becoming a source of litter in the first place.



Promotion of innovative solutions

Policy actions for encouraging plastic alternatives (e.g. biodegradable plastics)

The Government published a call for evidence in autumn 2019, to consider the development of standards or certification criteria for bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics and to better understand their effects on the environment and our current waste system.

Consultation response can be found here Standards for biodegradable, compostable and bio-based plastics: call for evidence – GOV.UK (

We are exploring some issues raised in the responses to this call for evidence in our consultation on an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging as well as our consultation on introducing greater consistency for household and business recycling collections in England which will be published in due course.

We may introduce a ban on oxo-degradable plastics, subject to further consultation.

The UK government recognises that innovation into biodegradable plastics could help reduce the environmental impacts of plastics if they are disposed of in the right way.

However, this is often not the case. If biodegradable plastics are put in the domestic waste bin, for example, they are likely to end up in landfill and can break down to release powerful greenhouse gases, such as methane.

If mistakenly recycled with other plastics, they have the potential to damage the quality of the new products made from the recycled plastic. We welcome further evidence on the development and application of robust standards for biodegradability which are proven to apply outside of laboratory conditions.

Public-private partnerships for creating and implementing innovative solution

Research and Innovation Fund

  • Plastics and Waste Innovation Fund
  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
  • Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP)

Brief description:
The UK has put together a package of over £100m for research and innovation to tackle the issues that arise from plastic waste:

  • £40m has been set aside through the Plastics Research and Innovation Fund and the Plastics and Waste Innovation Fund for research and development, including £10m specifically to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter.
  • The Government has also announced £60 million of funding through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, alongside a £150m investment from industry, towards the development of smart, sustainable plastic packaging, which will aim to make the UK a world-leader in sustainable packaging for consumer products.
  • SMEP is a wide-ranging programme with a specific stream of work on finding ways to reduce pollution (including from plastics) from manufacturing in poor countries. The plastics efforts are focused on: i) finding alternative materials and substitution opportunities in current design and production processes and ii) waste management advancements, by finding technological solutions for enhanced biodegrading (e.g. funghi).

Public Private Partnerships (PPP)
Through public-private partnerships with Unilever and the mobile industry association (GSMA), RED are supporting the development of innovative business models that encourage plastics reduction, reuse, recycling and reintegration into a circular supply chain. This includes an investment in Côte D’Ivoire (Coliba) that provides mobile credit to consumers in return for recycling plastic waste and Mr Green Africa, a Kenyan company primarily involved in the aggregation, sorting, cleaning, processing and reselling of plastics, among several other examples. Work was recently completed with Unilever and EY to landscape options for investments and steps needed to create an at-scale integrated supply chain for recycled material across sub-Saharan Africa (see here) and a similar paper for South Asia (India and Bangladesh) is currently being prepared.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) brings together multiple civil-society stakeholders across the plastics supply chain to translate political commitments into investible action plans to reduce plastic pollution. GPAP brings together governments, NGOs and the private sector to devise National Plastic Action Partnerships (NPAPs), which focus on mobilising funding and leveraging expertise in-country to create circular economic solutions. GPAP has launched three such NPAPs in Indonesia, Ghana and Vietnam, with the former focused on devising a pathway to help the Indonesian Government to meet its target of reducing marine litter by 70% by 2025. GPAP plan to launch a fourth NPAP in Nigeria in 2021.

The partnership is funded and supported by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom as well as corporate partners Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Dow Chemical and PepsiCo, demonstrating its international focus. As a key supporter of GPAP, UK representatives sit on all NPAP Steering Boards (usually from the respective High Commission or Embassy in-country), which helps foster international collaboration.

GPAP are also currently creating a toolkit called ‘Systems Toolkit to Eliminate Plastic Pollution – STEP’, a digital platform that will allow partner countries to engage with the NPAP model and share research and evidence to better develop policies on waste management and reducing plastic pollution.




Education and awareness raising

Education system for encouraging public awareness on MPL issues


  • Through the British-Irish Council commitment the UK is working to improve marine litter education materials for professional fishers.
  • The UK delivers Eco-schools programmes through various delivery partners. Each include modules on the importance and harm of litter in relation to terrestrial and marine environment health.

The UK funds the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge Badge which is a youth engagement programme delivered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in partnership with the World Organisation of the Scout Movement, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and Junior Achievement, as well as specific in-country partners. So far over 370,000 young people have participated in the challenge. The badge not only encourages young people to take action to reduce plastic waste in their own lives, but helps them become leaders in their communities to make sure that as many people as possible join the global fight to tackle the scourge of single-use plastics that is damaging the ocean.




Policy action and awareness raising campaigns related to MPL

National level:

Names of actions:
UK Litter Strategies

Brief description:
The UKs litter strategies bring together communities, businesses, charities and schools to bring about real change by focusing on three key themes: education and awareness; improving enforcement; and better cleaning and access to bins. They are also aiming to improve relevant public and business behaviours, reducing sources, improving monitoring and strengthening co-ordination nationally and internationally.

International / Regional level:

Names of actions:
Blue Planet Fund (BPF) The UK has launched a £500 million Blue Planet Fund that will support developing countries to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty.

Financed from the UK Official Development Assistance Budget, the Blue Planet Fund will help eligible countries reduce poverty, protect and sustainably manage their marine resources and address human-generated threats across four key themes: biodiversity, climate change, marine pollution, and sustainable seafood.

The BPF aims to reduce marine pollution through action on land-based and sea-based sources that also contributes to improved livelihoods and healthier environments.

The Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA) brings together member states, businesses, NGOs and civil society from across the Commonwealth to commit to action on plastics, share best practice, leverage funding and push for global action
The UK has committed up to £70m to address plastic pollution. This funding supports a package of programmes with organisations including the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), UN Environment Programme’s Tide Turners Plastic Challenge Badge and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) Plastic Pacts.

Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP), working in partnership with seven countries across the Commonwealth to identify real world contextualised solutions to the environmental and socio-economic challenges created by marine litter. Over three years, CLiP has focused on knowledge sharing and capacity building and has supported countries to develop marine litter action plans, establish microplastic laboratories, and create and disseminate school and community education packs to raise awareness around plastic pollution. So far, generation of evidence through CLiP has directly contributed to change in legislation in Belize and Vanuatu to ban use of certain single use plastic items.

Tackling Waste and Plastics Pollution Programme The programme includes up to £6m for pilot projects that aim to improve solid waste management approaches in up to 6 cities in developing countries, of which one has been live in this reporting period.

  • Uganda: Support for the Kampala Plastics Recycling Partnership, which includes private companies such as Coca-Cola, the Ugandan Government and other stakeholders, to improve the sustainable management of plastic waste in Greater Kampala.

The UK is supporting small projects in a number of countries.

  • Tearfund (£3m) Tearfund is working on a proposal to run a plastics project in Haiti (£1m) as well as Pakistan (£2m), working with communities on waste collection.
  • WasteAid (£80k) Preventing plastics from reaching the ocean in Cameroon.

The UK is funding Waste Aid to deliver a two-year recycling project in Gambia and a second project in Kenya.

Other UK programming:
WRAP Plastic Pacts: Having signed a UK ‘Plastics Pact’ in 2018, the UK is now funding WRAP to support other Commonwealth countries to develop their own Plastics Pacts. WRAP works to develop a network of Plastics Pacts around the world to support broader transition to a Plastic Circular Economy. The network of Pacts will enable efficient sharing of best practice guidance, practical solutions and resources between countries which share similar challenges.




Monitoring & Scientific research on marine plastic litter

Actions for encouraging monitoring / scientific research on plastic flows and ocean surface microplastics

The UK water industry has been working to reduce the amount of litter entering the environment from sewage and waste water systems through extensive investment measures to improve coastal sewage treatment works and collecting systems, including adding screening to and/or reducing volumes from overflows to limit polluting events. In addition, campaigns by water companies to educate the public and businesses on items and material that should not be disposed of in sewers, avoiding blockage and reducing items that might otherwise pass through sewers and treatment processes. Measures to address pollution from surface water runoff and drainage are also likely to reduce litter entering rivers and other water bodies.

Current monitoring for the UK Marine Strategy

  1. Seafloor litter bycatch data is recorded during fisheries surveys, providing a spatial coverage of benthic macro-litter.
  2. Floating litter washed ashore is monitored by beach litter surveys for macroplastic, surveyed quarterly from around the UK mainland.
  3. An indicator for assessing the prevalence of microplastics in sediments is under development, with the expectation that sediment grain size can be included.

Recent and ongoing research:

  1. A fishing gear inventory for England, and knowledge on the economics and process of recycling end-of-life fishing gear to allow an informed assessment of the impacts of an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme.
  2. Defining and evaluating the pathways of terrestrial litter to the marine environment – evidence review.

Currently funded relevant UK government research includes:

  1. Bio-Plastic-Risk – Investigation of Biodegradable plastics as an environmental pollutant in terrestrial and marine environments.
  2. Tyre-Loss – Investigation into the prevalence and impact of tyre-wear particles in the marine environment.
  3. MINIMISE – Current and future effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems.
Engagement in international/regional level actions for encouraging monitoring / scientific research on plastic flows and ocean surface microplastics

OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic)

The UK monitors surface litter in the Greater North Sea by recording the volume and type of plastics found in the stomachs of the Northern Fulmar seabird. This data is reported to OSPAR to contribute to the monitoring of surface litter in the North Atlantic Maritime area.

Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP): Over three years, CLiP has focused on knowledge sharing and capacity building and has supported countries to develop marine litter action plans, establish microplastic laboratories, and create and disseminate school and community education packs to raise awareness around plastic pollution. So far, generation of evidence through CLiP has directly contributed to change in legislation in Belize and Vanuatu to ban use of certain single use plastic items.



  • Recycling system improvement
  • Proper waste management system (including lack of local capacity)
  • Data collection related to waste in general
  • Data collection related to marine plastic litter
  • Lack of awareness among citizens, business, local governments
  • Lack of financial incentives for waste treatment in general
  • Lack of financial incentives for technology development
  • Project delays due to COVID-19

Best practices

National level
Through our 25 Year Environment Plan the UK is committed to leading efforts to protect the marine environment. To tackle marine pollution, we will pursue a sustainable, international and transboundary approach that prioritises reducing global reliance on plastics, increases economically viable recycling processes, and promotes maritime practices that prevent harmful matter entering the seas. Our Resources and Waste Strategy for England is framed by natural capital thinking and guided by two overarching objectives:

  • To maximise the value of resource use; and
  • To minimise waste and its impact on the environment.

This Strategy complements and helps deliver other government strategies which relate to the environment and include our ambitions to double resource productivity and eliminate avoidable waste by 2050. As well as the 25 Year Plan, they include: the Clean Growth Strategy, the Industrial Strategy, and the Litter Strategy. It also responds to the recommendations of the 2017 Government Office for Science Report, From Waste to Resource Productivity. This explores how we can treat waste as a valuable resource and this Strategy takes forward a number of its recommendations. We will deliver this through policies, actions and commitments which adhere to at least one of five strategic principles:

  • To provide the incentives, through regulatory or economic instruments if necessary and appropriate, and ensure the infrastructure, information and skills are in place, for people to do the right thing;
  • To prevent waste from occurring in the first place, and manage it better when it does;
  • To ensure that those who place on the market products which become waste to take greater responsibility for the costs of disposal – the ‘polluter pays’ principle;
  • To lead by example, both domestically and internationally; and
  • To not allow our ambition to be undermined by criminality.
    Our Strategy will contribute to the delivery of five strategic ambitions:
  • To work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025;
  • To work towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030;
  • To eliminate avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan;
  • To double resource productivity16 by 2050; and
  • To eliminate avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050.

Private sector
The UK also supports non-governmental organisations and projects including ‘Fishing for Litter’, ‘Marine Conservation Society’ and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Fishing for Litter
The UK supports Fishing for Litter, and the development of similar local schemes. This is a voluntary, unpaid litter bycatch removal scheme by commercial fishermen, run by KIMO, which provides fishing boats with bags to dispose of marine-sourced litter collected during normal fishing operations.

Marine Conservation Society
The UK funds the Marine Conservation Society to record litter from sections of our coast which helps us monitor the levels and trends of plastic pollution across several years. This data is used in combination with other monitoring data to inform our decisions about how to tackle marine litter. We welcome these efforts which provide valuable citizen science data and, encourage more people to become stewards of the marine environment. According to the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean, the number of plastic bags dropped by almost 40% between 2015, when England introduced a 5p single-use carrier bag charge, and 2016.

Global Ghost Gear Initiative + Food and Agriculture Organisation
In 2017 the UK signed up to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), the world-renowned experts and pioneering alliance of the fishing industry, private companies, NGOs and
governments working to solve the global abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) problem. We fund and collaborate with GGGI on regional interventions via technical workshops, bespoke training and other outreach initiatives.

The UK supports the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) international best practices outlined in the GGGI Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear.

International cooperation
International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
The UK is active at the IMO debating the issue of Marine Plastic Litter. The UK co-ordinated the correspondence group for to complete the MPL Action table, this work was completed at MEPC 74.

United Nations (UN)

The UK is committed to SDG Target 14.1: ‘By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution’. Progress towards SDG14 targets will underpin the sustainable development of the ocean. Therefore, it is important to encourage the international community to support programmes and initiatives that deliver SDG14 targets, using currently increased public motivation to protect the seas.

At the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017, the United Kingdom made four voluntary commitments under the SDG14 on the following topics:

  • Marine science. The UK pledged to work actively with international partners in a range of major issues such as strengthening global ocean observations, world ocean assessments and data sharing.
  • Marine Litter. The UK committed to several actions in order to combat marine litter. These include reducing the volume of single use plastic bags, the introduction of national litter strategies and banning microbeads in personal care products. The UK also signed up to the UN Clean Seas Initiative.

The UK works through the ad hoc open-ended expert group (AHEG) established by UNEA resolution 3/7 and extended by UNEA resolution 4/6 towards UNEA 5.2. AHEG completed it’s mandate in November 2020.
The UK supports UN Clean Seas. The campaign contributes to the goals of the Partnership on Marine Litter. The UK also supports and is committed to the UN Partnership on Marine Litter.

G7: UK’s 2021 G7 presidency
Recognising the scale, urgency and transboundary nature of the global action needed to tackle marine plastic litter and microplastics the UK this year has driven the G7 to commit to fully engage in discussions or negotiations at the next session of UNEA on options including a potential new global instrument, strengthening existing agreements and a multi
stakeholder platform.

The G7 have also committed to step up international action to tackle ghost gear, which has a significant direct impact on marine life, including an agreement to support organisations such as the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and agreement to carefully consider the recommendations of the UK commissioned OECD report ‘Towards G7 Action to Combat Ghost Fishing gear’.

Communique and OECD Ghost Gear report can be found here:

UK G7 Commitments
The UK is a signatory to the G7 5-Year Bologna Roadmap (2017), which highlights the need to address plastics leakage into the marine environment. The act requires members to acknowledge the socio-economic benefits of marine litter prevention and reduction measures, including in terms of employment generation, tourism development, sustainable fisheries, waste and wastewater management and other areas.

As a member of the G7, we welcome the proposed G7 Action Plan on Healthy and Productive Oceans and the ongoing work of the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Working Group in addressing key global issues, acknowledging the need for action to address the impacts that plastic pollution and marine litter.

The UK has committed to the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter which aims to move towards a more resource-efficient and sustainable approach to the management of plastics. On June 9, 2018, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union adopted the Ocean Plastics Charter to demonstrate their commitment to take concrete and ambitious action to address the problem.

The Charter recognises the need for urgent action by all sectors of society to:

  • Address and prevent the far-reaching devastating impacts of marine litter on the health and sustainability of our ocean, seas and coastal communities
  • Prevent mismanagement of plastic waste and ensure that plastics are designed to be recovered so they can be reused or recycled
  • Not treat plastic as a single-use product
  • Commit to recycling and recycled content targets
  • Reduce unnecessary plastic use and associated waste

The UK provided technical expertise to develop the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter. The plan provides a detailed framework for local, national and regional action to prevent and reduce marine litter. Under the G20 the UK has committed to promote the socio-economic benefits of establishing policies to prevent marine litter, to promote sustainable waste management, and raise awareness, promote education and research.

  • Under the 2019 ‘Osaka Blue Ocean Vision’ G20 we have committed to aim to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050 through a comprehensive life-cycle approach, improved waste management and innovative solutions. This was reaffirmed in 2020 at the 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit.
  • We are committed to continue to provide developing countries with a wide range of assistance through bilateral and multilateral cooperation including Official Development Assistance (ODA).
  • Members developed the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter, a new framework where each country, including developing countries implements voluntary actions. This was endorsed by the G20 Osaka Summit.

As a Contracting Party to the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, the UK develops and implements actions under the OSPAR Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter and participates in monitoring programmes to assess regional trends in marine litter. OSPAR’s marine litter objective is to substantially reduce marine litter in the OSPAR Maritime Area to levels where properties and quantities do not cause harm to the marine environment. To achieve this, OSPAR adopted a Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter for the period 2014-2021. This contains 55 collective and national actions to address both land-based and sea-based sources of marine litter, as well as education and removal actions. The UK worked to complete 3 collective actions, including co-leading on a project on the design and recycling of fishing gear. The UK and other contracting parties are currently developing ambitious marine litter objectives for the 2020-2030 North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy, reflecting on the successes of the current Regional Action Plan, and developing a new Regional Action Plan from 2021 onwards.

Contact details

Celia Rose Halifax –

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