adelphi Expands Fight against Marine Litter

A diver near the coast of Sri Lanka collecting so-called ghost nets, lost fishing equipment that litters the ocean.

Two new projects in the Caribbean and the Maldives help reduce the amount of plastic waste and stop it from being dumped in the ocean.


Marine litter is a global problem. Its consequences are multi-layered: from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to animals choking on plastic bags to microplastic all along the food chain. The German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) found that negative impacts of marine litter have been detected in more than 800 marine species. Once waste is in the sea, removing it is only possible with great effort, if at all. For this reason, adelphi is increasingly focusing on projects that address the problem before litter even reaches the ocean.

In 2019 and 2020, adelphi mostly concentrated on research to help build a global knowledge base on the topic. Starting in mid-2020, armed with this knowledge, adelphi is now helping governments and organisations to act against marine litter, in larger projects with a longer duration, such as the EU-financed SWITCH-Asia project PROMISE in South Asia. Together with its project partners, adelphi works on reducing the amount of waste – especially single-use plastics – in the tourism sector and recycling or adequately disposing of the waste that cannot be prevented before it reaches the ocean.

In the past few months, adelphi began the project PROMAR in the Caribbean for the Federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU) and another project in the Maldives for UNDP. Here, adelphi is focusing on the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EPR makes companies responsible for the entire life cycle of their products and packaging. If they choose to sell their wares in single-use containers or wrappings, for example, they also have the responsibility to collect an recycle (or responsibly dispose of) these containers and wrappings, thus preventing them from being dumped onto streets or into rivers, to eventually wind up in our seas.

The positive impact of this commitment is as multi-layered as the problems it addresses. Less marine litter means healthier marine ecosystems, less microplastic in the food chain, and protecting the beauty of landscapes that are vital for tourism-dependent economies.

Contact person: Jürgen Hannak