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UK & other low-leakage countries

As littering is a societal issue, governments need to take a lead with strong messaging and effective measures that reflect best practice and what works. This should include:

  • Strong behavioural change campaigns — see for examples.

  • Encouragement and simplification of correct disposal — consistent collection of items in kerbside recycling across the UK would make communication in this area easier.

  • Appropriate enforcement measures — littering is an offence punishable by a fine in the UK. This needs to be recognised as such and enforced.

  • Setting a public expectation that littering is unacceptable behaviour with individual responsibility recognised.

  • A comprehensive network of litter and recycling bins for people to use on the go and ensuring these are emptied at appropriate frequencies (e.g. busy areas have bins emptied more often). Research has proven if a bin is not conveniently located, a very high proportion of people will litter.

  • Ban microbeads in cosmetic wash off products.

High-leakage countries

It is generally accepted that largest source of leakage of plastic items into the oceans is from a small number of Asian and Pacific Rim countries that account for over 80% of ocean waste. These include China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Source: Jambeck et al. ‘Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean’. Marine Pollution


The main focus for countries that have high levels of leakage should be on improving waste management infrastructure to prevent plastic and other materials escaping into the environment.


Plastic is a valuable resource and can be recycled into new products, into fuel or into the building blocks of new plastic. It can also be converted into energy to power homes. It has no place in the ocean nor in landfill.


Informal recycling economies already exist in many countries, run by citizens committed to improving their communities. There may be scope for government to build on existing projects and improve their scope, scale and efficiency.


Initiatives such as Plastic Bank give local communities an opportunity to monetise waste — they collect plastic in return for food, shelter, phone charging stations and money.


Governments should be engaged in the sharing of best practice and training on waste management through organisations such as Waste Aid UK.


The plastics industry is already working in some high-leakage countries to help implement best practice in waste management systems.

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