ETC BE Report 2024/1: Marine Litter Watch – Europe’s Beach Litter Assessment

03 Jul 2024

Gašper Šubelj, Joana Mira Veiga, Eda Bayar Aydın, Mustafa Aydın

Litter, especially plastic, is accumulating in aquatic systems, notably on coastlines. Annually, 11 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans, making up 80% of marine litter. The European Environment Agency's Marine Litter Watch (MLW) initiative involves citizens in litter and data collection on European beaches. This report, building on previous findings, analyses the data of 2022 in the context of EU efforts to address plastic pollution. The MLW database provides essential insights into litter pollution state of beaches in Europe. It complements the monitoring programmes of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and supports the assessment of EU policies, such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan and the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive.
Contributions from over 60 communities and organisations are included, recording nearly 1.5 million litter items from European beaches in the past decade. Analysis reveals that 86% of recorded items are plastic, with SUP comprising 52% of the total litter. Cigarette butts are a significant issue, making up 23% of litter. Fishing-related items are less prevalent but notable in the North-East Atlantic. The Black Sea is the most polluted, followed by the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Around 90% of surveyed sites exceed the MSFD GES threshold for beach litter, but continued monitoring is needed for reliable data on spatial and temporal patterns.

Prepared by:

Lead authors: Gašper Šubelj (TC Vode), Joana Mira Veiga (Deltares)
EEA project manager: Eda Bayar Aydın
Coordination: Claudia Neitzel (NIVA)
Language Check: Shane Hume (LESP)
Layout: Oda Ellingsen (NIVA)

Important information:

The report has been uploaded to Zenodo (European topic centre knowledge hub) on 3 July 2024. Status: In review.