Seas At Risk : What the EU can do to stop marine litter – New study out now

“For this commandment . . . is not . . . beyon...

IEEP report marine litter – There is no easy way to tackle the issue of marine litter: it is complicated and has many causes, impacts and inputs. As a high percentage of marine litter comes from land based sources, EU legislation is possibly the best way to address the problem and look for solutions.

In order to provide some concrete guidance on the potential for existing EU legislation to tackle the multitude of land based sources of marine litter items, Seas At Risk commissioned a study from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). Their mission was to outline which existing pieces of EU legislation could be amended to ensure a significant drop in marine litter, and whether new legislation might be required to fill gaps in the existing body of regulation.

The IEEP study “How to improve EU legislation to tackle marine litter” provides an excellent overview of EU legislation that could have an impact on the amount of waste in the marine environment. Six policy instruments in particular are identified as having a high potential level of impact: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Waste Framework Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Cosmetics Regulation, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (the funding instrument of the Common Fisheries Policy). This is either because they are relevant to a large range of marine litter items and sources, or may have a dramatic impact in terms of reducing an important type of litter.

Marine Debris is a Global Problem

Marine Debris is a Global Problem (Photo credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service)

The study’s main conclusion is that the basic framework for addressing this environmental problem is in place. However, several short-comings in the existing legislation were identified, most importantly the need for greater ambition in the current requirements and targets.

For example, if the Cosmetics Directive were to ban the use of micro plastics in sanitary products, this would greatly reduce the input of this damaging type of marine litter. However a full review of the scope and focus of the Directive would be needed to introduce such a ban.Several of the analysed legal instruments could have a significant impact on the management of marine litter, but do not mention the concept of litter at all. The study recommends that the concept of litter is defined and systematically included in the Waste Framework and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Another way to make EU legislation more effective in tacking marine litter would be to include a reference to the marine litter descriptor of the MSFD. The study also flags up a worrying implementation gap. No matter how thorough the suite of legislation to tackle marine litter, without full implementation and enforcement by Member States it can have no impact on the problem.

The study comes at a crucial time in the fight to tackle marine litter, with the European Commission currently focused on a wide ranging review of EU waste legislation and targets. The recently adopted 7th Environmental Action Plan calls for an EU wide marine litter reduction target, with a public consultation on this expected soon. Additionally, a major conference is planned for 30th September in Brussels to present the outcome of the public consultation on the Green Paper on plastic waste.

In the meantime, the Member States are busy developing their national waste prevention plans – required under the Waste Framework Directive – and are in the context of the MSFD putting together programs of measures to reduce marine litter.

Seas At Risk intends to use the study results to ensure that prevention of marine litter is high on the EU agenda.

Newman, S, Watkins, E and Farmer, A (2013) How to improve EU legislation to tackle marine litter. Institute for European Environmental Policy, London

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See on www.seas-at-risk.org

Marine Expert Says Ocean Litter Is Being Ingested By Humans

We’re Sitting on a Time Bomb

The plastic peril inflicting our oceans is now so severe humans are ingesting particles of litter, a leading marine expert has warned.

The vast quantities of plastics which litter the UK’s oceans are not only a real danger to sea life but could also threaten humans too, Paul Rose, the vice president of the Royal Geographical Society, has said.

Rose, who presented BBC Two’s recent landmark series Oceans and is one of the UK’s most experienced deep sea divers and marine experts, has said that 70% of marine litter is plastic and that the vast majority of this waste comes from the land.

“We are in the midst of a mad out of control plastic consumption experiment,” he told HuffPost UK Monday.

“The big question is just how far up the food chain this plastic waste will actually go,” he said.

See on www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

Study Documents Cigarette Environmental Hazards

Fish Don't Smoke Sign

Did you know? The vast majority of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic that isn’t biodegradable. Don’t flick your cigarette butt! The beach is not an ashtray …

See on phys.org

Some plastics should be classified as hazardous, scientists say

Less than half of the 280 million metric tons of plastic produced each year ends up in the landfill. A fair bit of the rest ends up littering the landscape, blown by the wind or washed down streams and rivers into the sea.

So far Americans spend $520 million a year to clean up plastic litter washing up on West Coast beaches and shorelines. Efforts to clean up the oceans’ enormous swirling gyres of garbage has an incalculable cost. Thus, much of the focus has been on how to stop the river of trash from entering the ocean.

A team of 10 scientists has come up with an idea of how to make that happen: reclassify the most harmful plastic waste as hazardous material. That simple adjustment, the scientists write in the journal Nature, could trigger sweeping changes in how environmental agencies clean up plastic waste, spur innovation in polymer research and replace problematic plastics with safer ones.

See on www.latimes.com

Are microbeads and microplastics in beauty products a threat to the oceans?

Ocean News

The ubiquitous use of tiny fragments of plastic in cosmetics seems to be a serious problem for the marine environment. Am I right, and what can be done about it?

It is true that microscopic particles of polyethylene now bob around the high seas. It’s also true that the origins of these microplastics are likely to be consumer products. Washing your face can be an act of pollution if you use a cleaner that contains zillions of plastic microbeads for exfoliation. Too small to be sifted out at sewage treatment plants, they end up in the ocean, where the plastic becomes a persistent pollutant. As sea temperatures are low, plastic does not biodegrade; it is also ingested by wildlife. How could they avoid it? In some seas plastic fragments are more plentiful than plankton.

So let’s dry our guilt-induced “mermaid tears” – as these polluting plastic particles are poetically known – and face this issue. Largely this involves staring down the behemoth cosmetics industry, which has developed something of a dependency on fragments of plastic – apparently even some companies that send out beautiful sustainable messages about other parts of their supply chain.

So why use such an ugly ingredient? …

Continue reading on www.guardian.co.uk

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