Marine litter

Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution

1–2 September 2021 | Geneva, Switzerland, and online


Many countries called for an ambitious, legally binding agreement on plastics, emphasizing the urgency of coordinated global action to address the entire lifecycle of plastics, from production to disposal.

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Marine litter
Photo courtesy of Naja Bertolt Jensen

The menace of plastic pollution has become an issue of global concern in the recent past. Plastic pollution in the marine environment is not just an eyesore; its impacts are also detrimental to creatures dependent on the world’s oceans and seas. Increasingly, it also threatens human health, with reports suggesting humans ingest a startling amount of plastic embedded in the food chain.

Responding to mounting calls for global action to address this problem, governments have held various dialogues over the past decade to decide on future action. The Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution is expected to result in a Ministerial Statement to chart the path to towards a new global instrument by calling on the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to kick off negotiations. Prior to this Conference, delegates convened in two preparatory meetings in May and June 2021.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in some parts of the world, delegates attending the conference will convene in a hybrid format: both in-person, at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and online. The Conference will take place from 1-2 September 2021.

The decision to hold the Conference was made at the first part of the fifth session of the UNEA(UNEA-5.1) in February 2021. This decision was the result   of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics established by UNEA resolutions 3/7 (on marine litter and microplastics) and 4/6 (on marine plastic litter and microplastics). The Expert Group met four times since it first convened in Nairobi in May 2018, concluding deliberations in a virtual session in November 2020. The Chair’s Summary from that process was submitted to UNEA 5.1. It contained, among other recommendations, a list of potential options for continued work on the issue, including a proposal to begin negotiations on a new global instrument.

Please see the Earth Negotiations Bulletin’s coverage of the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Expert Group (AHEG) and of UNEA 5.1.

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