Sea Pollution

Plastic waste is increasingly polluting the world oceans at an alarming rate and according to estimations, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish  by 2050,  unless restrictive measures are taken.
  •  lost fishing equipment and the 10 kinds of single-use plastic products represent 70% of marine litter on European shores
  • New EU rules, adopted on 27 March 2019, tackle this plastic problem
  • Plastic doesn’t just make a mess on the shores, it is also dangerous to marine animals who often get entangled in plastic pieces or mistake smaller plastic parts for food. Ingestion of these plastic particles prevents them from digesting normal food and eventually leads to toxic chemical pollutants in the ecosystem.
  • Humans eat plastic microparticles via the food chain. The health impacts are unknown.

    Sea waste results in economic losses for sectors and communities who are dependent on the sea, as well as for manufacturers: only a mere 5% of the value of plastic packaging is recycled and stays in the economy – the rest is thrown away, suggesting the need for a more effective approach to recycling and reusing materials.

How can we tackle marine waste?

The short answer is that we need to prevent plastic from ending up in the sea in the first place; therefore, tackling the creation of plastic waste at its source is crucial. We need to implement a more effective plastic waste management on land, based on our growing knowledge about plastic in the sea. However, waste management is not enough, we should also strive to include responsible production and consumption of plastic, and perhaps alternatively opt for bio-based plastic and find innovative nature-based materials. We need systemic and well-implemented solutions:

Responsible sorting and recycling system

Beach clean-up - a bottom-up initiative
- we organise several successful clean-ups in Copenhagen area and in Denmark at large

The measures adopted in the EU ban on single-use plastic include:

  • "A EU-wide ban of single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates and cutlery (with exemptions until 2023), beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups

  • An obligation for EU countries to adopt measures to achieve a 25% reduction of the consumption of food containers and cups for beverages

  • An obligation for EU countries to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic by 50 % by 2025 and 80 % by 2030,

  • Extended Producer Responsibilty (EPR) schemes that include the cost of clean up and awareness raising measures

  • Harmonised standards and an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for fishing gear, as well as a 50% collection target and a 15% recycling target for fishing gear by 2025

  • An obligation to separately collect 90% of beverage containers and ensure they are produced from 35% recycled content by 2025

  • An obligation to prevent the use of hazardous chemicals in the composition of sanitary items

  • An obligation to label products to inform consumers about the presence of chemicals of concern in certain single-use plastic products" (Source:  EU Parliament: )


How is the European Union doing addressing the sea pollution?

The following answer can be found on the website on the European Environmental Agency (located in Copenhagen) :

"The key piece of legislation for the marine environment is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The directive aims at ensuring the protection and sustainable use of marine ecosystems in Europe’s regional seas by achieving a good environmental status by 2020. In this context, it is also the first legal instrument to that requires European Member-States to set environmental targets, monitor and implement measures to tackle marine litter.

Although marine litter is a growing environmental problem, the information base on it is still limited. The marine directive clearly requires EU Member States to monitor marine litter, which means that they need to set up data collection mechanisms and be able to report their progress towards achieving the set targets. By doing so, the directive also supports one of the objectives of the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme, namely of combating pollution and establishing a measureable reduction target for the amount of litter entering the seas by 2020.

The EU has also various pieces of legislation on waste. A recent review process of the waste legislation has produced, among others, an assessment of the impact that dedicated policy measures for specific litter items could have on marine litter.

Other actors are also taking important measures. For example, several Regional Sea Conventions, including in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the North-East Atlantic, are working on implementing regional actions plans for that purpose.

These efforts are best seen in the broader policy context of building a truly circular economy and of achieving long-term sustainability in Europe" (European Environmental Agency, 2020).

Source: European Environmental Agency. (2020) The EU.(adapted)