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 2017 as part of OSPAR's Intermediate Assessment of the state of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. This showed that litter is abundant on beaches in the OSPAR Maritime Area. Plastic fragments, fishing-related litter and packaging were the most common types of litter found, with plastics comprising over 90% of items in some areas.

There have been some significant changes in the amount of litter recorded on survey sites in the period 2009–2014, but no general trends across all survey sites. 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.

IA2017 - Beach Litter - Average Number of Litter Items:

Data available here: