Europe Moves to Tackle Marine Pollution

Europe Moves to Tackle Marine PollutionEurope Moves to Tackle Marine Pollution

The European Commission has tabled an important legal proposal to tackle marine litter. By introducing new measures on single-use plastics as well as derelict fishing gear, the proposal will contribute to Europe's transition toward a circular economy.

Fishing gear (nets, lines, pots, traps) accounts for 27% of all beach litter. With its proposal, the commission will encourage all actors involved to get a maximum of derelict gear back to shore and include it in the waste and recycling streams. In particular, producers of plastic fishing gear will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures, the commission's official website reported.

  Complementary Measure  

This new measure builds on existing rules such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and complements other actions taken against marine pollution, such as under the Port Reception Facilities Directive. The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

Abandoned, lost or disposed of fishing gear accounts for about a third of marine litter found in European seas, or over 11.000 tons per year. Almost half of the "great garbage patch" in the Pacific Ocean consists of such fishing gear. It is estimated that in Europe, 20% of gear is lost at sea. The reasons for this loss vary, ranging from accidents, storms and entanglement to intentional abandonment.

  Ghost Fishing

Fishing gear is designed to catch marine organisms and will continue to entangle marine life even if lost (ghost fishing). It is designed to be durable in the marine environment and takes many years to degrade. Monofilament fishing lines are estimated to take 600 years to degrade.

The plastic used for fishing gear is of very high quality, but the proportion recycled is small. Only 1.5% of gear gets effectively recycled. That is why the proposal provides tools and incentives to facilitate recovery, re-use and recycling of the plastic material in fishing gear. More specifically, it closes the loop by adding Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to the existing measures. This will ensure that managing fishing gear plastic litter, once it has arrived on shore, is the responsibility of the producers.


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