Marine Litter 2017-01-24T12:15:04+00:00

Marine Litter

What’s the Problem

Approximately 10 million tonnes of litter end up in the world’s oceans and seas each year. The term “marine litter” covers a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea, and it includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage and sewerage systems, or the wind (European Commission, 2013).

What we find on our beaches is not the full extent of the marine litter load in the environment. It is estimated that 70% of marine litter is on the seabed, 15% is floating in the water column and 15% is what we find on our shores (OSPAR, 1995).

Sources of Marine Litter

  • Litter dropped in towns and cities
  • Overflowing litter bins
  • Litter dropped at the beach
  • Poorly managed industrial waste discharges
  • Lost shipping containers
  • Lost/discharged fishing gear
  • Recreational litter blown by the wind
  • Poorly managed landfill sites
  • Microbeads from personal care products
  • Sewage related litter

Impacts of Marine Litter

Marine litter kills, injures and causes pain and suffering and every year entails great economic costs and losses to people and communities around the world (United Nations Environment Programme, 2005).

Impacts to Marine Life:

  • Entanglement of marine animals
  • Ghost fishing: lost or abandoned fishing gear that continues to catch fish
  • Ingestion by marine animals
  • Spread of alien species by marine debris

Impacts to People and Economy:

  • Ingestion of micropalstics
  • Damage to fishing, fishing boats and gear
  • Contamination of beaches
  • Damage to the scenic quality of coastal areas