The Issue of Marine Debris in Small Island Developing States


In “Small Island Developing States,” the United Nations Environmental Program details the many issues afflicting small island states (marine debris, erosion, extreme weather conditions) and the need for resources to deal with the huge problems they face, such as waste separation, recycling, and the development of ecotourism and other sustainable ways to earn a living. UNEP, through the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), is helping Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) to address waste management issues, but this is only the beginning. Read full article in the link below:

Some of the Earth’s most beautiful tropical paradises are being disfigured by the by-products of our modern society: marine debris. This human-created waste that is being disposed into the sea range from plastic bottles and carrier bags to discarded fishing gears. But just a tiny fraction of the debris polluting islands is originating from the islands themselves – most of which are generated on land, entering the sea through the sewers and drains.

Marine debris polluting the beautiful shores of Small Islands Developing States can sometimes come from passenger liners, freighters and fishing vessels, whose crews often use the oceans as a giant waste disposal unit. Tourists produce large amounts of wastes, especially during the peak tourism period, compounding the difficulty of the island’s authorities to manage waste with their limited capacities.

For most part, Small Island Developing States do not have the resources to deal with the huge problem of marine debris that is being washed up on their doorstep as the tides and currents wash the accumulated marine garbage onto their beaches.

A litter-strewn beach is an eye-sore and with tourism playing a major role in the economies of many island states, marine debris can have substantial adverse financial implications threatening local businesses and employment prospects.

Ecotourism guarantees sustainable livelihood and provides incentives to protect wildlife while contributing to sustainable development. Because of its impacts on ecosystems, marine debris is jeopardizing ecotourism activities.

Small Island Developing States are often subjected to extreme weather conditions such as tropical storms and hurricanes. After a storm, there’s usually a sudden and often dramatic appearance of huge amounts of plastic debris, dredged up from the deep and thrown onto the shore. Because of climate change, hurricanes will occur more frequently, making island nations even more vulnerable to the consequences of storm aftermaths (i.e. waste management and disposal challenges).

Unique social, economic and environmental characteristics of Small Island Developing States, such as high population density, limited availability of land space and the lack of human and financial resources, reduce the choice of appropriate options for sound management of waste.

Ecosystem-based approaches such as ecotourism, waste separation and recycling are still in their early stages in many islands, though some attempts have been made to reduce the amounts of wastes generated.

Small Island Developing States lack resources, and waste management programmes have not often been implemented due to the lack of capabilities for technical analysis/assessment, planning, financing and public support. Wastes are often disposed in improvised landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping on open land or in rivers and coastal waters, which aggravate the problem of marine litter. [. . .]

[Photo above by Fabiano Barretto.]

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