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Maritime Forum

Map of the Week – Plastic Pollution and Seabed Litter

This map on seabed litter shows the percentage of litter divided into several categories (glass, textile, metal, polymer, etc.).  

This map on seabed litter shows the percentage of litter divided into several categories (glass, textile, metal, polymer, etc.).

You may have read about it in the news in the past weeks. Plastic pellets that washed up on the shores of northern Spain recently caused environmental emergency in Spain. [1] Plastic pellets are used in the manufacturing of plastic products. Volunteers and workers have worked to clean up the beaches and coasts of the area.

Every year, millions of tonnes of litter are generated through a variety of human activities and much of this ends up in the ocean, posing environmental, economic and public health problems. It is estimated that 7-13 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic pollution comes in different forms, ranging from macroplastics (pieces larger than 20 centimetres) to microplastics (pieces smaller than 5 millimetres) and all the way to nanoparticles we cannot see. Plastic does not biodegrade in oceanic conditions. Its long-term presence in the marine environment enables the plastic pollution to enter the biosphere, affecting marine ecosystems.Macroplastics lead to wildlife entanglement, choking and physical damage while microplastics are ingested and passed through the entire food chain. [2]

Did you know that there are several map layers on beach litter and seabed litter in the European Atlas of the Seas? Explore the Map of the Week to learn about the composition of seabed litter. Based on the legend of the map, it can be seen that the main material found in seabed litter in most locations is artificial polymer materials. Zoom in the map to see information for a specific location and click on the graph to read the details.

Wish to know more about plastic pollution and what can be done to address this issue?

  • Learn about marine litter with the Marine Information System for Europe (WISE Marine);
  • Read about proposed measures to reduce microplastic pollution from plastic pellets;
  • Learn how students carried out research on microplastics in the framework of the Erasmus Maris initiative;
  • Find out about the work of the Plastic Pirates to investigate plastic waste pollution in European rivers, the ocean and seas using a large-scale citizen science approach.


Access the map


The data in this map are provided by EMODnet.

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