Marine Litter and Microplastics


In the first EMG report on System-Wide Collaboration on the Environment member agencies identified oceans as an opportunity to increase collaboration on this issue. Marine litter originates from many sources and causes a wide spectrum of environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural impacts.  Roughly 80 per cent of marine pollution originates on land. To address this, strong coordinated action is needed. 

At its third session in December 2017, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEP/EA.3/Res.7) called for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to explore all barriers to combating marine litter and microplastics. In March 2019, through its resolution UNEP/EA.4/Res.6, emphasizing the importance of strengthened coordination and multi-stakeholder cooperation for achieving long-term elimination of plastic discharge into the oceans, the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly invited the Environment Management Group (EMG) to engage in and contribute to the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics. 

In response to this call, following the midterm meeting of its technical segment held in May 2019, the EMG Senior Officials decided to establish an interagency Task Team to prepare the requested system-wide contribution.


The EMG Task Team on Marine Litter and Microplastics

The purpose of the Task Team is to expand UN system involvement and strengthen the coordination of UN-system support to Member States in addressing the global challenge posed by marine plastic debris and microplastics. Key objectives include:

  • To provide a comprehensive overview of UN system activities and initiatives that directly or indirectly address marine litter and microplastics, contributing to a broader stock-taking and “state of action” analysis under way by the Ad Hoc Open-ended Experts Group on marine litter and microplastics;
  • Serve as a platform for information exchange among UN system entities on activities and expertise related to marine litter and microplastics;
  • To create synergy and avoid duplication of work by identifying further collaboration opportunities including at the country level, or prospects to expand existing initiatives within the UN system related marine litter and microplastics;
  • To raise awareness within and outside of the UN system on sources and impacts of marine litter and microplastics, highlighting the linkages to the issue of different sectors and mandates, and identifying entry points to addressing the challenge. 

Task Team Meetings

The first meeting of the Task Team was held virtually on the 24th of October 2019. The meeting considered the draft of its Terms of Reference and heard a presentation from UNEP on ‘Entry points for tackling marine litter and microplastics.’ The Terms of Reference and minutes of the meeting will be posted once they have been finalised.

For more information, or to join the Task Team, please contact