Managing Marine Litter

Date01 February 2020
Carl Bruch (moderator) is Director of International
Programs and a Senior Attorney at the Environmental
Law Institute.
Carole Excell is Acting Director of the Environmental
Democracy Practice at the World Resources Institute.
K. Russell La Motte is the Ma naging Principal at
Beveridge & Diamond PC.
Adena Leibman is currently Senior Oceans Policy
Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund, and at the
time of this discussion was Natu ral Resources Counsel
and Appropriations Manager in the Oce of Sen. Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Carl Bruch: We have a very disting uished panel today to
discuss the topic of marine litter. ey highlig ht a diversity
of approaches for addressing the issue.
To start, I would like to introduce Russell LaMotte,
who is the managing principal of Beveridge and Dia-
mond. He helps global companies navigate in national
environmental regulatory regimes and product com-
pliance. Russ served for more than 10 years a s an
international lawyer in the U.S. Department of State
representing the U.S. government in designing, negoti-
ating, and implementing most of the major multilateral
environmental and ocea n agreements.
Second, Carole Excell is acting director of the World
Resources Institute’s (WRI’s) Environmental Democracy
Practice and the project director for e Access Initiative,
working on access to information, public participation,
and justice issues around the world. Previously, she was
the coordinator for the Freedom of Information Unit of
the Cayman Islands government in charge of ensuring the
development and e ective implementation of t he Cayma n
Islands’ Freedom of Information Law.
ird, we will hear from Adena L eibman. Adena is the
natural resources counsel and appropriations manager at
the oce of Sen. Sheldon Wh itehouse (D-R.I.), where
she pursues environmental conservation and awareness
through science, law, and policy. Adena previously served
at the Ocean Conserva ncy, among other roles across gov-
ernment, education, a nd nonprot sectors.
Before we go into the dierent legal approaches that
are being adopted at dierent levels, I would like to
provide some context. As of 2016, 280 million tons of
plastic materials are ma nufactured every yea r.1 About
one-third of these plastics are single-use. 2 More tha n
eight million tons of plastic every year enter the ma rine
environment causing an estimated $8 billion in da mage
to marine ecosystems.3
Plastics are approximately 90-95% of marine litter.4
About one-half of the plastic waste is packaging.5 As
countries and localities and international eorts are try-
ing to address marine litter, they are focusing particularly
on single-use plastics. ese include a variety of products
that are typica lly used once before being thrown away or
recycled, including every thing from plastic bags to straws,
cutlery, cups, and food packaging. ere are some impor-
tant questions about what to do with, say, medical pack-
aging that is used only once, as it can be dicult to nd
non-plastic substitutes.
In addition to the question of which source of plastic
to focus on, there is the question of how. ere are diverse
1. PE, A’  P M, P—
F 2017, available at
2. Plastics Facts, Sustainability and Life Cycle,
life-cycle (last visited Jan. 8, 2020); but see, Fact Sheet: Single
Use Plastics, (esti-
mating single-use plastics at approximately one-half).
3. Press Release, U.N. Environment Programme, UN Declares War on Ocean
Plastic (Feb. 23, 2017),
4. José G.B. Derraik, e Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris:
A Review, 44 M P B. 842-52 (2002).
5. Matt Leonard, Packaging Makes Up Nearly Half of Plastic Waste, S
C D, Mar, 26, 2019,
Marine litter is human-created waste that has been discharged into the marine environment, including glass,
metal, plastics, and other debris. According to data compiled by the United Nations, the equivalent of a
garbage truck f‌illed with plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute—more than 8 million metric tons per
year. On November 11, 2019, the Environmental Law Institute hosted an expert panel that explored recent
U.S. legislation to target marine litter, the economic impacts of marine litter, and examples of successful inter-
national marine pollution agreements and regulatory collaborations. Below, we present a transcript of the
discussion, which has been edited for st yle, clarity, and space considerations.
Copyright © 2020 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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