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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The international maritime community has taken steps to restrict garbage discharged overboard from vessels to curb environmental harm. The fundamental restrictions were laid out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (1973) and its 1978 Protocol, together known as MARPOL 73/ 78. MARPOL Annex V bans all overboard disposal of plastics and limits other discharges based on the form of the material and the vessel's location and distance from shore. The regulated garbage includes solid wastes (other than sewage) generated during normal operations at sea. The U.S. Congress ratified Annex V in 1987 and enacted the Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act (MPPRCA) (P.L. 100-220). The Coast Guard is responsible for enforcing Annex V and the MPPRCA, but many federal agencies are involved in implementing the convention and the domestic law. These agencies, while making some progress in implementation, identified the lack of strategic planning and organization as a major obstacle. As a step toward improving national implementation of Annex V, the agencies asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a comprehensive assessment and recommend a national strategy, Accordingly, the Committee on Shipborne Wastes was convened under the auspices of the NRC's Marine Board. The committee focused on vessel garbage, but in some respects this problem could not be separated from the problem of marine debris in general. Thus, elements of the committee's analysis and recommendations are applicable to the problem of marine debris in general as well as the specific objective of the study.