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Water, water everywhere (and waste too)

The vast scale of available waste materials discarded on ocean and sea floors has been quantified by a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-coordinated report.

It says that 6.4 million tonnes of litter is discarded in the maritime environment, amounting to 8 million items being thrown away per day and 13,000 pieces of plastic for every square kilometre of sea or ocean bed.

Indeed, the report stresses that 90-95% of maritime solid waste is plastic, with the remainder mainly metals and glass.

Of these, 70% is lying on the seabed, 15% ends up on beaches and 15% is floating. Sources vary from fishing vessels, fish farming, pleasure craft, navel and commercial vessels, as well as coastal landfills, untreated municipal sewage and beach tipping. The report stresses the need to improve waste collection in coastal communities and by promoting recycling as a means to reduce waste actually reaching oceans and seas, where it are difficult to collect.

The study has been published in preparation for an international conference on this issue next year, in Beijing, China, from October 16-20 (2006).

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules insist on ships and ports having sufficient waste facilities, but these are not always complied with.

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