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Info-sheet: Human rights impacts of ocean plastics

Elisa Morgera, Stephanie Switzer and Graham Hamley

University of Strathclyde, UK

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  • environmental protection
Target Group
  • Researchers,
  • Students,
  • Community workers,
  • Policy makers,
  • Teachers,
  • Youth
  • English
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This information sheet introduces the negative impacts of ocean plastics on everyone’s human rights.

This information sheet discusses how ocean plastics have a negative impact on various aspects of human rights, including the right to a healthy environment, health, food, culture, and non-discrimination. Ocean plastic pollution is persistent and accumulates in the environment, causing toxic pollution. It also reduces the availability of marine biomass, which can lead to a reduction in food resources, and can present a food safety risk for humans when contaminated seafood enters the human food chain. Additionally, ocean plastics negatively affect marine life, which ultimately restricts our ability to live in a healthy environment, depriving us of essential ecosystem services. The impacts of ocean plastics can also reduce the profitability or viability of economic activities, affecting poor coastal communities, and indigenous peoples. Furthermore, ocean plastics can also impact the human rights to culture by reducing the availability, accessibility, or acceptability of coastal and marine spaces and marine resources that are essential for cultural activities.

The text outlines several procedural obligations that States must fulfill regarding ocean plastics, as well as the responsibilities of businesses. These include providing access to information on environmental and health hazards posed by plastics, ensuring meaningful and effective participation of all in decision-making processes, assessing potential impacts on human rights, and providing access to justice and remedies for negative impacts. The text also suggests that States have obligations related to the human right to science, such as filling knowledge gaps about the impacts of ocean plastics.