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Maritime Forum

Implementing EU legislation on marine litter

The Single Use Plastics Directive and Port Reception Facilities Directive of 2019 made producers and importers responsible for transport and disposal of end-of-life fishing gear and removed financial penalties for bringing waste to shore, including...


Key takeaways

  1. Under recent EU legislation targeted at reducing pollution from marine litter, all waste fishing gear containing plastics will require specific handling, monitoring and reporting when they are brought to EU ports. Member States should also set up their national collection targets for fishing gear for recycling.
  2. Member States must introduce Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Schemes by the end of 2024 to cover the necessary costs for separate collection, transport and treatment of fishing gear and components of fishing gear containing plastic, as well as the costs of awareness-raising measures to prevent and reduce such litter.
  3. A well-functioning EPR scheme should include all relevant stakeholders, including small producers, and avoid market distortion, free-riders and the cherry-picking of valuable waste streams.
  4. All stakeholders in Europe – producers, manufacturers, fishers, harbours, distributors, importers, recyclers and authorities – must work together and learn from each other in order to build efficient EPR schemes and to successfully implement the requirements under the EU legislation.
  5. Future EPR schemes for fishing gear can learn from the experience of successful EPR schemes in other sectors, such as packaging or electronics and electronic equipment, and in countries such as France, Germany and the UK. Keys to the success of an EPR scheme are good system design, fee modulation (to encourage circular design and sustainability), proper monitoring and reporting, as well as defined enforcement.
  6. The definition of fishing gear as provided in the SUP Directive is vague. The definition of what is covered by the term “fishing gear and its components” should be better defined, so that producers and fishers know what to include in a country’s EPR scheme. Sweden for example has drafted laws to include gear used for recreational and sporting fishing in its EPR scheme. Ideally, definitions of fishing gear should be harmonised across the EU, to avoid grey zones and market distortions.
  7. Recycling schemes for fishing gear containing plastics are being tested in several European countries. Under project INdIGO, the UK and France have developed infrastructure in and around ports to collect and sort this waste, often voluntarily, including characterisation of the polymers and their use in fishing gear. Projects like this must include awareness-raising campaigns among producers, fishers and the public about the importance of collecting and recycling plastics from this gear, including the use of good practice guides.

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