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Trash-Free Waters

International Initiatives to Address Marine Debris

Plastic bottles in streamEPA works with several different international forums on marine litter prevention and reduction, and strives to be a leader on this important global issue. EPA has recently partnered with the United Nations Environment Program Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) Exit and the Peace Corps on a marine litter reduction initiative in the wider Caribbean region. This initiative will implement EPA’s Trash-Free Waters collaborative approach to significantly reducing marine litter. The collaboration with UNEP-CEP and Peace Corps will help carry out community-based trash reduction projects, create effective solid waste management policies at the national and local level, and identify best practices to remove and prevent trash from entering Caribbean waterways.

Jamaica and Panama will be the initial pilot countries in 2016 to demonstrate the Trash-Free Waters approach and its benefits to public health and the environment, by keeping significant amounts of litter from reaching the Caribbean Sea.

To learn more about EPA’s international activities on marine litter and other land-based sources of marine pollution, please visit our International Programs website.

UNEP and the Global Partnership for Marine Litter (GPML)

The United Nations Environment Programme Exit is the world's leading voice on global environmental priorities for governments. UNEP leads the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) Exit, which serves as a voluntary coordination body of international agencies, governments, NGOs, academia, private sector, and civil society to work together to reduce and prevent marine litter and trash.

EPA is a partner to the GPML, and participates by sharing successes and best practices from our Trash Free Waters domestic program, as well as our expanding international work on marine litter. The GPML also serves as an opportunity to hear from others working on marine litter, to strengthen policy decisions and provide the most up-to-date information on actions that governments are taking to reduce marine litter.

UNEP is also the lead on several important studies on marine litter, such as the report on plastics in cosmetics, and on biodegradable plastics in marine litter. The biodegradable plastics study found that these plastics, once widely regarded as a potential solution to marine litter, do not in fact biodegrade fully within the marine environment. They also create difficulties for sorting the waste stream for recycling and reuse.
Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments (pdf) Exit(38 pp, 1.8MB, About PDF).