A new guide to support countries to put in place port reception facilities to receive marine plastic litter from ships was published yesterday by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Plastic litter has devastating effects on our oceans, marine life and human health, IMO states. Some scientists warn that, by 2050, the quantity of plastics in the sea will outweigh fish. The Guidance Document on Conducting Techno-Feasibility Studies for the Establishment of Port Reception Facilities for Plastic Waste has been developed by the GloLitter Partnerships team to confront this issue.
Overview of MARPOL Annex V discharge requirements
Plastic waste management
Increasing amounts of litter end up in the world’s oceans, harming the health of ecosystems and killing animals that become entrapped in the litter or ingest it. Human health is also at risk, as plastics break down into smaller pieces (microplastics and nanoplastics) that may subsequently contaminate our food. According to the waste management hierarchy known as “Lansink’s ladder” (see Figure 1), the best option is to prevent plastic waste from being generated at all on board a ship. If prevention is impossible, recycling is the next preferable option, but if that is not possible either, plastic waste may be incinerated (with energy recovery). Dumping in a landfill should be regarded as the least favorable option.
The document outlines the costs of operating a port reception facility and the revenue that such facilities can generate. It provides tools and guidance on conducting economic assessments and techno-feasibility studies concerning Port reception facilities for plastic waste generated on board ships, including fishing gear. Case studies of waste reception facilities in different ports around the world (large and small) are used to illustrate the relevant income and expenditure flows.
Role of ports
Ports need to cover the costs incurred in collecting and treating the waste received from ships by charging direct and/or indirect fees, and by selling products derived from the waste. In smaller ports with limited vessel calls, it is deemed essential that all ships contribute to the cost of provision of reception facilities, including those ships not actually using them. Reception facilities in large ports are on standby around the clock so that ships that need to discharge waste are not unduly delayed. In smaller ports this would be too costly.
IMO is taking action to address the issue of marine plastic litter from ships. In 2021 the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted its Strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships. It aims to achieve zero plastic waste discharges to sea from ships by 2025. See more here.
GloLitter is an IMO partnership project with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) funded by Norway, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and The Commonwealth of Australia. It assists developing countries to prevent and reduce marine litter, especially plastic marine litter, within the maritime transport and fisheries sectors and identify opportunities for the reduction of plastic uses in both industries.
The project expands government and port management capacities, and instigates legal, policy and institutional reforms at the country level by developing mechanisms for sustainability and enhancing regional cooperation.
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