The abundance of litter in the marine environment has steadily increased over the last few decades and recent studies have showed high concentrations of microplastic particles (particles up to 5 mm) in coastal sediments and marine organisms like fish (de Sá, 2018; Horton et al., 2017; Hurley et al, 2017; da Costa et al, 2016 etc.). By various means (e.g. transport accidents, inappropriate disposal of packing materials as well as microplastic beads used in cosmetics), different types of plastics enter the water column, with serious ecological implications for marine organisms, such as fatal entanglement in macro plastics or the ingestion of microplastics by fish and birds (Leslie et al., 2011).
The most prevalent litter categories include packaging (plastic bags, food and drink containers) and single-use, disposable items (e.g. straws, bottles, cotton bud sticks). Marine litter brings with it enormous social costs, e.g. litter clean-ups.
Marine litter is a consequence of our current paradigm of linear use of resources and our inability to fully deal with the volume of waste this produces. It presents a challenge to society and to our economic and political systems to mitigate marine litter damage to the oceans and welfare much more effectively and without delay.
Answers to these urgent needs will aid the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which requires EU member states to achieve ‘good environmental status’ (GES) in Europe’s seas by 2020. Within this directive, the 10th GES descriptor explicitly addresses marine litter, focusing on the need to identify trends in the amount of litter in the marine environment and on coastlines, including analysis of its composition and spatial distribution.
s.Pro is working on some of these issues. It has analysed appropriate return and deposit schemes for fishing gear (please find the study here) and will find solutions to reduce the amount of litter related to aquaculture in the upcoming AquaLIT project. Furthermore it analyses the legal feasibility of the implementing Article 8 of the current proposal for a directive on extended producer responsibility (COM (2018) 340 final).