Towards an international symposium on plastics in the Arctic

The “International Symposium on the Threat of Plastics to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Marine Environment” will take place in Reykjavik 21-23 April 2020.

The Icelandic Chairmanship program places a special emphasis on the issue of marine litter and sees the Arctic Council as being well placed to take up a regional leadership role. Amongst the efforts Iceland is initiating is an international symposium on plastics in the Arctic. The “International Symposium on the Threat of Plastics to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Marine Environment” will take place in Reykjavik 21-23 April 2020 and is co-hosted by the Icelandic government and the Nordic Council of Ministers, which is currently also chaired by Iceland.

The aim of the symposium is to gather the best available knowledge on marine plastics in the Arctic, as well as to discuss best practices to deal with the issue. “When we speak of plastics, we need to reverse an old saying to ‘back in sight, back in mind’. Plastic pollution is one of the major issues marine environments face today and we need to coordinate our actions to tackle it effectively”, states Magnús Jóhannesson, the Council’s designated special coordinator on plastics, marine litter.

It is the first international symposium focusing on plastics in the Arctic and its outcomes will feed into the Arctic Council’s work on marine litter during the Icelandic Chairmanship. At the end of its two-year term, Iceland’s ambition is for the Arctic Council to have a regional action plan. “Several of the Council’s Working Groups are engaged in projects that look at the issue of marine plastics from various angles. This includes waste management solutions, monitoring of pollution and measures to reduce the discharge of plastics into the marine environment. These are also some of the main themes of the symposium”, says Magnús Jóhannesson.

On behalf of the government of Iceland, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, and the Ministry of Industries and Innovation are responsible for the preparation of the Symposium. It is further sponsored by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the OSPAR Commission, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC), the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland, the Harvard Kennedy School and the International Arctic Science Committee.

Important dates:

• 1 June 2019: Registration opened
• 1 July 2019: Open for abstracts
• 1 December 2019: Abstract submission deadline
• 15 January 2020: Acceptance of abstracts finalized
• 1 February 2020: Program finalized
• 21-23 April 2020: Symposium dates

To learn more about the symposium, please visit the event website: