Brussels: SAR held a members workshop on specific EU policy areas related to marine litter back-to-back with our Annual General Meeting.

Around 30 marine litter experts from across Europe participated in lively discussions on how best to engage with the existing EU policy opportunities that have a high potential to reduce the input of waste to the oceans.

After a presentation by a representative of European Commission’s DG Environment on the Circular Economy, plastic strategy and other Commission initiatives, there were presentations by SAR on the details of the Circular Economy and the Port Reception Facilities Directive.

Discussions centered around those issues that members have worked on that could be strengthened at a European level, such as combating microbeads in cosmetics and promoting return deposit schemes for beverage packaging. Members shared good examples of actions to tackle items that are most likely to end up in the environment from their countries and regions. The Commission is developing a Plastic Strategy which NGOs hope will contain measures for reducing the prevalence of plastic single use items and packaging.

The last topic to be discussed was the Port Reception Facilities Directive, a policy area that few environmental NGOs work on, but which has a high potential for tackling marine litter from maritime sources. SAR presented the Directive and the current state of the revision procedure, and members discussed in detail how to incorporate marine litter concerns further.

A particularly fruitful area of discussion was on whether the directive could better address waste from fisheries, as the particular needs of fishing harbours are not well accommodated by the existing legislation, despite the fact that a large percentage of sea sourced marine litter comes from fishing related activity. SAR members have long standing experience with fisheries, lost and abandoned fishing gear and related campaigns, and will work together in the future to pool this expertise to address this problem.