ETC/ICM Report 5/2022: Marine Litter in Europe - An integrated assessment from source to sea

06 Jan 2023

Joana Veiga, Andrea Winterstetter, Ciarán Murray, Gašper Šubelj, Sebastian Birk, Ülgen Aytan, Amy Lusher, Bert van Bavel, Anastasiia Sholokhova, Ahmet Kideys, Marcela Julia Smit, Mona Arnold, Jesper H. Andersen, Mustafa Aydin

Marine litter is a complex issue that is rooted in our patterns of production and consumption and how we deal with waste. The present ETC report aimed at assessing marine litter from source to sea, emphasizing the causalities between socio-economic drivers, pressures, and the state of pollution in Europe’s coastal and marine environments. This comprehensive and integrated study included i) material flow analyses and comparison of the shares and amounts of plastic packaging waste mismanaged in 2012 and 2018 in the 32 EEA countries + UK, as well as in coastal areas; ii) scope of estimations of riverine litter discharged into European seas; iii) literature review and indicator-based assessment of the status of marine litter pollution in relation to specific thresholds; iv) appraisal of the perceived situation in relation to European policy objectives and targets. Regional differences in terms of pressures and state of litter pollution emerged from the study. The assessment shows that efforts in improving waste management in Europe, even if evident, are insufficient to offset an intensification in plastic production and waste generation and reduce the amount of mismanaged plastic waste that may end up in the environment. In fact, most of the assessed areas in terms of marine litter pollution were classified as “potential problem areas”, and the situation may deteriorate if the trend in the level of pressure is not reverted.

Prepared by:

Authors: Joana M. Veiga (Deltares, Netherlands), Andrea Winterstetter (VITO, Belgium), Ciarán Murray (NIVA, Denmark), Gašper Šubelj (TC Vode, Slovenia), Sebastian Birk (UDE, Germany), Ülgen Aytan (TC Vode, Slovenia), Amy Lusher (NIVA, Denmark), Bert van Bavel (NIVA, Denmark), Anastasiia Sholokhova (ETC/WMGE – VITO, Belgium), Ahmet Kideys (METU, Turkey), Marcela Julia Smit (UDE, Germany), Mona Arnold (ETC/WMGE), Jesper H. Andersen (NIVA, Denmark), Mustafa Aydin (EEA, Denmark)
EEA project manager: Mustafa Aydin
Coordination: Claudia Neitzel (UFZ)
Language Check: Shane Hume (CENIA)
Layout: F&U confirm, Leipzig