Litter entering the sea: Stakeholders from four European seas share their knowledge

In the beginning of this year, the European Commission launched three studies to gather strategic information and support the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requirements on marine litter and further develop the policy framework for this issue. One of them is entitled Pilot project – plastic recycling cycle and marine environmental impact – Case-studies on the plastic cycle and its loopholes in the four European regional seas areas. The main objective of this project is to pinpoint sources of marine litter in a study-site, in each of the four European seas, illustrating the process of marine litter data interpretation to indicate the main loopholes in the local sectors that can lead to marine litter and designing a set of feasible measures to address those dysfunctional aspects. The four selected sites are Riga (Latvia- Baltic Sea), Oostende (Belgium-North Sea), Barcelona (Spain-Mediterranean) and Constanta (Romania-Black Sea), areas that include river discharge, commercial ports and important coastal cities.

This study is being led by Arcadis-Belgium and EUCC is coordinating the activities on marine litter data collection, their linkage to local sources of origin and is responsible for the Barcelona case-study. The case-studies are strongly based on participatory approaches to gather local knowledge and obtain a concerted view on where, how and why plastic litter is entering the marine environment in the area. For this purpose, local workshops have been recently conducted in each of the 4 sites, involving 10 to 20 representatives of several sectors in the area that may have responsibility or/and may be impacted by marine litter.

The next stage of the project aims at designing an adequate mixture of measures and strategies, targeting different key sectors and life-cycle levels, based on the main type of plastic items and their perceived sources and adapted to the local needs. Finally, this set of measures will undergo an assessment of feasibility, in order to evaluate its economic, administrative and institutional implications.