Surfrider Foundation Europe (SFE) has launched its annual Ocean Initiatives campaign and beach clean up event to raise awareness on marine waste.

In its 15th year running, the event aims to promote the damaging consequences of waste on coastlines, lakes and rivers. Between the 18th and 21st March, volunteers of the organisation will clean up litter strewn beaches across Europe, Africa and French overseas territories.

Last year’s event attracted more than 20,000 volunteers, of which 5,000 were school children coming together over a single weekend. The event culminated in 500 sites being cleaned in over 24 countries.

This year, in addition to the arduous task of cleaning up beaches, SFE have set volunteers the challenge of contributing to further analysis of the litter they come across. By assessing the type and source of material found on beaches, SFE are aiming to amass a range of qualitative and quantitative information on the impact of waste on coastlines.

The central motive behind the Ocean Initiatives campaign is what Surfrider call ‘macro waste’: “Waste stemming from human activity, which floats on the surface or is emerged in the water, and which is transported by ocean currents or by rivers onto the coastline where it is deposited on the beaches”.

A statement by SFE said: “Whilst this macro-waste plays a major role in the destruction of our ecosystems all around the globe it is still not regarded as a pollutant... This is an emergency."

“The lack of a legal status remains our priority: It is crucial to convince the European Commission and the Members of the European Parliament to treat macro-waste as a pollutant.”

Seas At Risk, who are supporting SFE on this important initiative, are also pressing for stronger regulations concerning the discharge of marine litter at the International Maritime Organisation and the European Union.

For more information on getting involved in the March beach cleaning programme, go to: www.initiativesoceans.org or www.surfrider.eu

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