Marine Litter

Marine litter is defined as any solid material which has been deliberately discarded or unintentionally lost on beaches, on shores or at sea. The definition covers materials transported into the marine environment from land by rivers, draining or sewage systems or winds. It includes any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material.

Originating from sources both on land and at sea, marine litter comprises a wide range of materials, including plastic, metal, wood, rubber, glass and paper, however it is dominated by plastic which accounts for 94% of the items found on beaches in the OSPAR Maritime Area. Our latest assessment of abunance, composition and trends in marine litter shows that over the last six years, significant decreases in litter and plastic abundance have been observed on beaches bordering the North-East Atlantic (The OSPAR Maritime Area) but levels remain high.

Single-use plastics (SUP) and maritime-related plastic items (SEA) have been directly targeted by OSPAR’s Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (ML RAP) 2014-2020, e.g., plastic bags, cigarette filters, cotton bud sticks, hunting cartridges, and balloons.

Prevelance, dry mass and abundance of marine litter ingested by turtles in 3 sampled areas

OSPAR has recently published its first ever assessment of marine litter ingested by sea turtles. Based on necropsies of 182 loggerhead turtles obtained from 1988 to 2019 in the Southern OSPAR area, the results showed that there is a high incidence of litter ingestion by sea turtles in the Bay of Biscay, Azores and Macaronesia.

To substantially reduce marine litter, it will be necessary to continue current efforts and to take additional measures.