The European Commission has today issued a headline reduction target for marine litter in Europe as part of its Communication on a Circular Economy. We believe that this target is inadequate and will need to be significantly strengthened to really tackle the problem of waste entering our seas.

The European Commission has today issued a headline reduction target for marine litter in Europe as part of its Communication on a Circular Economy. We believe that this target is inadequate and will need to be significantly strengthened to really tackle the problem of waste entering our seas.

The Commission proposal for an ‘aspirational’ reduction target of 30% by 2020 for the top 10 items found during beach surveys is a step in the right direction. However, in its current non-binding state it is unlikely to bring about the significant reductions that are needed to end the input of litter to our seas. Key measures, such as improved sewage treatment and ending single-use plastics, are likely to face political resistance that only binding EU level targets can address.

Seas At Risk Marine Litter Policy Officer Emma Priestland: "a 30% non-binding reduction target is really not enough, and will simply allow member states to continue with business as usual. We know that large reductions can be made with the right measures, which is why we have been advocating for a legally binding 50% reduction by 2020".

Seas At Risk is also highlighting the problems in the setting of the proposed marine litter target, as existing beach litter monitoring only occurs in some regions, and the most commonly recovered items are small pieces of unidentifiable plastic. Stronger definitions of the key waste that is to be targeted will be required if targets are to be met.

Part of the 30% reduction of marine litter should come from proposed new recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which were released today as part of the circular economy package. Additional reductions should be achieved through the revision of the Port Reception Facilities Directive, amongst others.

It is encouraging that the Commission has recognised that rubbish in our seas is a serious problem, and acknowledges that a true ‘circular economy’ is essential if we are to end marine litter. The establishment of an EU wide reduction target on marine litter is also part of the 7th Environment Action Programme.

A Eurobarometer poll of EU citizens’ attitudes to waste this week showed that 94% would support a mandatory EU-level target to reduce the amount of litter entering the oceans, and 96 % agree that more initiatives are needed by industry to limit plastic waste and increase recycling.
More information
Eurobarometer, 20th June 2014, ‘80 per cent of Europeans want their country to waste less’
Joint Marine Litter Manifesto for European Seas, 2013:
IEEP Report for Seas At Risk, 11th September 2013: ‘How to improve EU legislation to tackle marine litter’

Contact

Ed Davitt, Communications Officer, Seas At Risk, (+32) 486 386 752

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