People Hold the Power to Protect the World’s Oceans

Ocean pollution isn’t a problem limited to one country, or even one continent. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that what happens in one city can have impacts across the globe. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), about 80% or marine litter originates on land. A majority of scientific studies have concluded that plastic in the ocean is the result of poor or insufficient waste management and lack of sufficient recycling and recovery. UNEP identified the following sources below as the most important.

Causes of Marine Litter Pollution

Marine debris originates from various sources and can enter the ocean in a multitude of ways. Some of the most common causes of marine litter pollution include:

  • Poorly managed or poorly resourced landfill sites
  • Sewage treatment and combined sewer overflows
  • People using beaches for recreation or shore fishing
  • Manufacturing sites, plastic processing, and transport
  • Shore-based solid-waste disposal and processing facilities
  • Inadequately covered waste containers and waste-container vehicles
  • Inappropriate or illegal dumping of domestic and industrial trash or waste
  • Street litter that is washed by rain or snowmelt, or blown by wind into waterways

Working in partnership, industry, NGOs, national governments and the United Nations have determined that good prevention and waste management is the key to keeping it out.

As a signature initiative of its Trash Free Seas Alliance®, Ocean Conservancy worked with the McKinsey Center for Business & Environment to lead a comprehensive study, Stemming the Tide: Land-Based Strategies for Plastic Free Ocean,


What’s Being Done?