Consultation on the establishment of a quantitative reduction headline target for marine litter

The European Commission launched, on 25th September 2013, a public consultation on marine litter. The aim of this consultation is to understand stakeholders’ views on a range of actions and policies which could be undertaken in order to tackle the problem of marine litter. All stakeholders have until 18th December 2013 to bring their ideas to find a solution.

The European Commission is looking at ways to set a goal of reducing the quantitative across the Union for marine litter, as recommended by the 7th Framework Programme of Action for the Environment recently adopted. The consultation launched on marine litter is to gather input from the public and stakeholders.

Based on the results of the ongoing consultation and in parallel with the review of the objectives of the Waste Directive, of the Packaging Directive and the Landfilling Directive, the European Commission proposes to define a first major reduction target for marine litter. This could be integrated into a broader communication on waste, that would be adopted in 2014.

This objective meets the expectations of the Rio +20 conference on sustainable development where a commitment was made at the global level for the adoption of measures, by 2025, to “significantly reduce the amount of marine litter and prevent damage to the coastal and marine environment “.

According to the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, water waste includes “any solid household, industrial, natural which is found in the marine and coastal environment. They can be of varied nature : waste floating on the surface or floating in the water column, waste deposited into the seabed, waste beached on the coastal areas. They are found in very different environments : ocean, coastline, estuaries, lakes and rivers, water systems”.

The aim is to strengthen the EU legislation on the prevention and management of waste including a possible increase in the level of ambition of the relevant objectives, and to prevent the “potential impact” on human health of potentially toxic substances released by the plastic waste.

The questionnaire contains a series of actions that could be undertaken by consumers, retailers, the plastics industry, the sectors of shipping and fisheries, NGO, local and national authorities and policy makers of the Union to reduce the volume and impact of marine litter. These options are intended in particular to avoid the use of bags and plastic bottles, to educate, to clean, to assess the policies and measures that can be taken (feasibility, cost effectiveness …) and set reduction targets at the national or local level.

Some figures:

  • Approximately 10 million tons of waste each year arrive in the seas and oceans of the world. These are often manufactured and persistent solid materials, such as plastic, glass and metal ;
  • 70-80% of the waste found in the seas and coastal areas are of terrestrial origin ;
  • 60 to 95% of the debris found on the seabed are plastic waste, especially packaging (shopping bags, bottles ….) ;
  • On average 712 waste are recorded each 100 meter of beach.
  • Between the water surface and 200 meters depth, we can count 150 million debris to the North Sea, 50 million for the Bay of Biscay, 300 million for the Mediterranean basin ;
  • Plastic waste accounted for 80% of the huge volume of waste floating in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans ;
  • There is a volume of 3.5 million tonnes of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean : the waste come from the coast and ships, and form two “islands” that reach an area of 3.4 million square kilometers, more than 5 times the size of France. These plates of litter are located between Hawaii and Japan, and Hawaii and California ;
  • According to Greenpeace, 267 marine species are threatened by waste in the oceans and seas.

If you want to contribute to this consultation, answer this questionnaire.

Sources : www.enerzine.com ; www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr ; ec.europa.eu ; www.actu-environnement.com

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