Every year, millions of tonnes of litter make their way to our beaches, seas and ocean. It is estimated that 80% of this litter comes from land-based sources like beach littering, land-fills and street litter carried to the sea by untreated municipal sewage, rivers and flood water1. It is thus no surprise that the top three litter items found on our beaches are drink bottles and caps, cigarette butts and cotton bud sticks2. The map of the week shows the average number of cigarette related litter items along 100 metre segments of the European beaches.
Smoking is not only detrimental to your health, cigarette butts and other marine litter also causes a major hazard for marine life as animals can get entangled or ingest the trash, exposing them to harmful chemicals. These can also make their way up through the food chain threatening human health on a global scale2. Furthermore, marine litter causes serious economic damage2 with valuable, recyclable resources lost at sea, polluted beaches driving away tourism and fishermen’s catches including more and more litter.
To try and tackle this problem, the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires that member states take actions to ensure that, by 2020, the properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment1. One of the results of this strategy is the ban on single-use plastic products2. You can also be part of the solution, by reducing your use of throwaway items, avoiding littering of the items you do use and recycling them instead. You can also actively help cleaning up the litter on your local beach or join one of the EUBeachCleanUp events. Have a look at the Map of the Week to find a beach where your actions can have the biggest impact.
The data in this map were provided by EMODnet Chemistry.