Brussels – today the European Commission adopted a new Circular Economy package, including a commitment to continue to work on the EU headline marine litter reduction target, and to develop a strategy on plastics in the Circular Economy.

Seas At Risk notes the Commission’s renewed commitment to the 30% headline reduction target, after a year of silence on the target’s status. The promise to develop a strategy on plastics in the Circular Economy is also welcomed, as having the potential to tackle some of the most prominent types of litter in the ocean. However the vague wording, lack of timeline or legally binding nature of this commitment is concerning. Seas At Risk further welcomes the recognition of the Commission that revision of the Port Reception Facilities Directive can contribute to the reduction of marine litter from ships.

Emma Priestland, Seas At Risk Marine Litter policy officer said: ‘After a year of uncertainty regarding the status of the marine litter reduction target, we are relieved to see that the Commission will still work on making it operational, as this is a vital step for ensuring Europe stops polluting the oceans with waste. However, as the Commission had promised to come up with a more ambitious package than the previous, it is a shame they did not take the opportunity to increase the target from 30% to 50% as the Parliament requested [1].’

While the actions to tackle product design are welcome, the rest of the Circular Economy package shows a reduction in ambition from the previous version, with lower recycling targets and non-binding commitments, Emma Priestland continued: ‘Despite the lower ambition level of the rest of the package, if the Commission develops action on wasteful single-use plastic items, and improves packaging reusability, it will be a huge win for the marine environment. We hope that single-use plastics will be addressed in the promised plastic strategy.’

A recent study estimated that between 58,000 to 271,000 tonnes of plastic per year are entering the oceans from Europe [2,3]. A quantitative EU-wide marine litter reduction target is considered essential by policy makers, researchers and NGOs to drive the necessary prevention measures for this kind of pollution. Member states are obliged to develop national targets as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the EU’s main marine protection legislation, yet most have demonstrated a worrying lack of ambition.

Contact

Emma Priestland, Marine Litter policy officer, +32 28930967, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes

[1] European Parliament resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy (2014/2208(INI)) calls for a marine litter reduction target of 50% by 2025.

[2] ‘Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean’, Science, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768

[3] ‘The Danube so colourful: A potpourri of plastic litter outnumbers fish larvae in Europe’s second largest river’, Environmental Pollution, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749114000475