Drowning in Plastics: Marine Litter and Plastic Waste Vital Graphics


The aim of this Vital Graphics publication is to provide an overview of the current global marine litter and plastic pollution challenge and its effect on the environment using graphic visualisations – each covering central topics of the challenge and related technical, scientific and policy perspectives. It covers the broad area of marine litter and plastic pollution, including production and consumption of plastic worldwide, chemical composition of plastic material, major sources of plastic leakage to the marine environment and impacts on ecosystems, human health and the economy.

The publication builds on the first Marine Litter Vital Graphics published in 2016, capturing the latest trends and developments and expanding the focus to include technical and operational management solutions to removing unnecessary, avoidable and problematic plastics, enhancing circularity and improving plastic waste management – as well as policy and governance frameworks that can address the challenge from a local to global level.

The publication is developed jointly by UNEP, the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and GRID-Arendal, drawing on these entities’ broad expertise across different thematic areas. It reflects the multi-sectoral nature this environmental challenge and the need for a multi-pronged approach – addressing it from scientific, technical and policy angles. With much still unknown about the distribution and impacts of plastic on the marine environment and human health – the publication reflects current state-of-the-art knowledge on the global marine litter and plastic challenge and what solutions can be implemented to avoid both known and potential impacts, while global research continues.