Beach Litter

One of the key indicators of abundance, composition and trends of litter in the marine environment is the amount on beaches. OSPAR monitors litter on 100m stretches at over 70 beaches in the North-East Atlantic following common monitoring guidelines. The monitoring records litter in 112 predefined litter items in 11 types: Plastic / polystyrene, Metal, Paper and cardboard, Wood, Sanitary waste, Cloth, Rubber, Glass, Pottery/ceramics, Medical waste and Faeces.

The most recent assessment of beach litter monitoring data was undertaken in 2019 and showed that litter is abundant on beaches in the OSPAR Maritime Area. Plastic fragments, fishing gear and packaging are the most common types of litter. About 90% of recorded items are plastic. From December 2009 to January 2018 litter abundance declined significantly on 23% of the survey sites and increased on 9%.

The large numbers of litter items are considered harmful due to the potential threat of entanglement, ingestion or injury, and indicate that litter pollution is also a problem for marine life in the OSPAR Maritime Area.


OSPAR Mean Total Abundance of Beach Litter Items - 2018: