Marine debris (or marine litter) is a growing issue of international concern. Defined as any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment (UN Environment Program, 2009), it results in a multitude of impacts in coastal and marine environments. Not only does debris impact wildlife, have detrimental economic consequences, result in navigation hazards and transport invasive species, but it also has aesthetic and toxicological impacts on communities and wildlife, respectively. Common items that end up as marine debris include plastic bottles, food packaging, fishing nets or gear, cigarette butts and plastic bags.
Marine debris and its upstream source, land-based waste, is a growing environmental, economic and social issue that spans council, state, national and international boundaries. Addressing this complex issue and reducing waste inputs to the marine environment is a challenging undertaking. Managing the issue will benefit from understanding the plastic pollution problem from a large-scale, holistic perspective. This involves conceptualizing the sources and drivers, the distribution and dynamics of debris in the environment as well as identifying and quantifying the impacts on wildlife and humans, and identifying and assessing a suite of potential management responses.