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 published in 2022 and showed that beach litter levels remain high with plastic items predominating. Over the last six years, significant decreases in litter and plastic abundance have been observed at the OSPAR Maritime Area scale and in four OSPAR Regions. To substantially reduce marine litter, it is necessary to continue current efforts and take additional measures.

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.

Data, maps and legends available here


OSPAR Median Total Counts of Beach Litter Items per Survey Site over the period 2018 - 2020 :