ETC/ICM Report 6/2022: Marine Litter Watch (MLW) 2021 European Beach Litter Assessment

05 Jan 2023

Ülgen Aytan, Gašper Šubelj, Mustafa Aydin

Litter is piling up in all aquatic systems, particularly on sea beaches, being their last stop on the journey through the linear economy. With at least 11 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year, plastics make up the bulk of marine debris along beaches. The Marine Litter Watch (MLW) initiative is the European Environment Agency`s (EEA) project to engage communities to collect both litter and data on the beaches of Europe. The analysis in this report supports determining the environmental status better, as requested by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), and assessing the effectiveness of EU policies and directives such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan (ZPAP) and Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD).

This report builds on the MLW data set collected between 2015 and 2021, contributed by 22 European communities that have collected and monitored the beach litter on 175 beaches in 17 countries. The data shows that plastics represent 85% of total marine litter, and indeed single use plastic (SUP) items provide the bulk of the top ten litter categories. The Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea’s beaches are more littered.

Prepared by:

Lead authors: Ülgen Aytan, 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