The European marine environment is flooded with litter, most of it plastic. This type of plastic pollution has severe ecological impacts, chief among which are: it can be ingested by or entangle marine life; it breaks down into microscopic particles, which attract and absorb dangerous chemicals; and it contributes to the spread of invasive species and dangerous pathogens. Plastic pollution is a problem that neither respects boundaries nor has a single source, but, rather, can be considered a symptom of our throwaway society. In sum, plastic pollution constitutes an important threat to our planet’s ecosystems.

Seas At Risk raises awareness of, and advocates for, effective and ambitious policy measures to curb marine pollution at both EU and international level. The European Marine Directive encourages Member States to develop targeted measures to reduce marine litter in order to achieve Good Environmental Status of European seas by 2020. Adopted in 2018, the EU Plastics Strategy calls on Member State governments to address prevention, recycling and adequate disposal of plastic waste, influence production and consumption patterns to reduce plastic pollution, and avoid the release of microplastics into the environment. In 2019, the first mandatory law deriving from the EU Plastics Strategy entered into force - the Single-Use Plastics Directive – seeking to reduce EU consumption of the most polluting single-use plastic items found in our oceans. Seas At Risk members work with regional and national authorities to turn these measures into ambitious requirements on the ground.

More Information

Single use plastic and the marine environment summary report and Leverage points for reducing single use plastic, background research.

How to improve EU legislation to tackle marine litter (pdf), Institute for European Environmental Policy, London. 

Bring waste full circle: how to implement the circular economy (pdf)

Marine Litter Manifesto for the European Seas (2013) (pdf)




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