ETC/ICM Report 1/2021: Marine litter and European beaches: learning from citizen science

22 Dec 2021

Marine litter causes enormous economic cost, ecological damage and social impact, adversely affecting
tourism, fisheries, shipping and many other economic sectors. Costs of litter to EU fishery and
tourism/recreation were once calculated as a minimum of 61.7 and 630 million Euros respectively for the
EU (ARCADIS 2013). Predominately consisting of improperly disposed of plastic waste and mismanaged
plastic materials, marine litter is one of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity. Microplastics (< 0.5 mm)
following ingestion by marine animals, such as fish and mussels, may eventually end up in the human food
chain. Therefore, marine litter is also an important issue for human health.

In this context, the Marine Litter Watch (MLW) initiative is the European Environment Agency’s (EEA)
attempt on engaging citizens to collect data on litter along the beaches of European seas (Rubio-Iglesias
et al. 2020). Assessment of these citizens’ data may help to strengthen Europe’s knowledge base on beach
litter and thus provide support to relevant/interrelated European policies in tackling plastic pollution and
marine litter, whilst accelerating the transition to a circular plastics economy, most notably the Marine
Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPs), the Zero Pollution Action
Plan (ZPAP), Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).

Prepared by:

Lead authors:Ahmet Kideys (METU), Gašper Šubelj (TC Vode), Mustafa Aydın (EEA)
EEA project manager: Mustafa Aydın
Coordination: Claudia Neitzel (UFZ)
Language Check: Shane Hume (CENIA)
Layout: F&U confirm, Leipzig