Maritime Forum

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Hack4Oceans Challenge: Marine Litter

Published on: Thu, 02/12/2021 - 08:39
Table of Contents
    How might we engage citizens and organisations in preventing marine litter? How might we put a stop to microplastics pollution?


    Every year, millions of tonnes of marine litter end up in the ocean worldwide, causing massive environmental, economic and health problems. While new legislative measures are put in place worldwide to reduce single-use plastics, substantial additional efforts are required to:

    – Change behaviour of individuals with regards to marine litter;

    – Specifically address microplastics pollution.

    Problem description

    Marine litter causes serious economic damage for coastal communities, tourism, shipping and fishing. From an environmental perspective, marine litter may be one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the world’s oceans.

    While EU directives (e.g. Plastic Bags, Single Use Plastics) are important in the fight against plastic pollution, much more effort is needed to make people and organisations aware of marine pollution and their own responsibilities in preventing such pollution.

    It is therefore a key priority to raise awareness and stimulate behaviour change among the wider public and key stakeholders in the private and public sector.

    Microplastics present a particularly insidious part of this challenge. Microplastics are a major concern due to their potential toxicity and size, and resulting harm to the animals that ingest them and consequently to humans. Recent research in the Mediterranean also showed that more than 80% of marine litter items collected were microplastics[1].

    While the clean-up efforts for plastic litter before it degrades into microplastics are worthwhile, an additional effort is needed to prevent microplastics pollution. Microplastics are used directly in certain products (e.g. industrial abrasives, exfoliants), are generated during the use of products (e.g. washing clothes) and are carried by sewage.

    [1] EU Coastal and Marine Policy. 2019.

    HOW MIGHT WE (HMW) Questions

    Raise public awareness and stimulate behaviour change, both among the  wider public and among private and public stakeholders.

    HMW we increase and improve education about marine pollution in schools, especially primary schools?

    HMW encourage coastal tourists to stop littering and clean up beaches?

    HMW encourage citizens to report coastal pollution and enable them to do something about it too?

    Reduce the use and generation of microplastics and prevent their flows in the oceans.

    ► HMW prevent the use of microplastics in the manufacturing of consumer and industrial goods?

    ► HMW filter microplastics from waste water?

    ► HMW prevent microplastics pollution created by household washing machines?

    HMW prevent microplastics pollution created by industrial cleaning and laundry activities?

    HMW prevent microplastics pollution created by industrial cleaning and laundry activities?

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