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Maritime Forum

Map of the Week – Beach Litter – Composition of litter according to material categories

The Map of the Week shows the types of litter on European beaches according to several categories (polymer, glass, textile, metal, etc.) that have been monitored on Europe’s coastline under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).


Every year, in September, the European Commission organizes the #EUBeachCleanup campaign in partnership with the United Nations (UN) and the Smurfs ©! Events organized across Europe in 2018 and 2019 in the framework of this campaign were mapped in the European Atlas of the Seas. In accordance with the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference COP 15, this year’s campaign is dedicated to protecting marine biodiversity. For the 2021 edition, the partners are calling for more localised and online engagement. [1]

Marine litter is one of the 11 descriptors used to assess achievement of Good Environmental Status (GES) in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) which aims to protect the marine environment across Europe. The condition for descriptor 10 to be met is that "Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment". As human activities on land and at sea continue to exert pressure on the sea and marine life, the European Commission is reviewing the European Union rules that protect the marine environment. [2] Citizens and organisations are invited to share their views on the potential objectives and actions of the new Marine Strategy Framework Directive until 21 October 2021. The MSFD will be reviewed by mid-2023 and where necessary, amendments will be proposed.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Plastics lead to multiple impacts on the marine environment, on food and health, on climate change and on tourism. [3] Explore the Map of the Week to see the percentage of the different categories of beach litter that have been monitored on Europe’s coastline under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

What can you do?

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The data in this map are provided by EMODnet.