Marine litter and single use plastics stakeholder survey

Beach litter consisting mainly of discarded fishing gear (Photo: Creative Commons/ Forest/Kim Starr) Beach litter consisting mainly of discarded fishing gear (Photo: Creative Commons/ Forest/Kim Starr)

The European Commission has published a stakeholder survey "Reducing marine litter: actions on single use plastics and abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear" as part of the follow up to the EU Strategy on Plastics scheduled for adoption in January 2018.

Plastics are an important material in our economy and present in many aspects of our daily lives, but they also have relatively low rates of reuse and recycling and are prone to littering.

The European Commission Action Plan for a Circular Economy (2015) therefore identified plastics as one of 5 priority areas. A Communication outlining the strategy for plastics is currently under preparation and scheduled for adoption in January 2018. Rising amounts of plastic waste and marine litter are among the key problems that the strategy seeks to address.

Consumption patterns have shifted towards single-use items, rather than reusable alternatives. Single-use plastics are usually thrown away after one brief use; they are rarely recycled and are particularly prone to end up as litter in the natural environment. They represent half of marine litter, which has become an issue of acute public concern.

Another issue of concern is plastic waste from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, in particular from fishing gear, that is lost by accident (for example due to weather conditions) or discarded when it is no longer fit for use.

The UN Environment Programme estimates that damage to marine environments from marine litter is at least USD 8 billion per year globally and it has been forecast that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans.

The Commission's Plastic Strategy will also address approaches to reduce single-use plastic items and marine litter including lost or abandoned fishing gear. On the basis of available data and analysis follow-up action will be considered in the near future. This consultation is intended to contribute to developing this knowledge base and guide such future actions.

The European Commission is seeking views from stakeholders in the maritime sector.  The consultation consists of different parts, of which one is directed at the general public and the two others at audiences with some expert knowledge or interest for single use plastic and fishing gear respectively. The consultation is currently available in English - and from 21 December in all official EU languages - and is open until 12 February.

See the consultation here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/reducing-marine-litter-action-single-use-plastics-and-fishing-gear_en

By Jake Frith

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