European Commission unveils proposal to tackle marine litter

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19 Jan

This week the European Commission unveiled the first Europe-wide strategy on plastics which is a further step of the transition towards a more circular economy. It includes new measures to tackle maritime waste.

The main objectives of the strategy is to make recycling profitable for business, to curb plastic waste, stop littering at and to the sea, drive investment and innovation, and spur change across the world. 

This year, the Commission will, among other things, initiate work on new harmonised rules to ensure that by 2030 all plastics packaging placed on the EU market can be reused or recycled in a cost-effective manner, and start the process to restrict the intentional addition of microplastics to products. 

Marine plastic waste are not only a huge environmental problem, but also an animal and human health one. Indeed, plastic waste in water that has broken down into microscopic pieces get ingested by fish and other animals,, Some polluted fish reach people’s dinner tables, having an unknown impact on their health. Both for environmental and health concerns, the strategy aims to reduce marine litter found on beaches by 30% by 2020. 

In the framework of this new strategy, the Commission presented also a legislative proposal to reduce discharge of waste by ships (Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on port reception facilities for the delivery of waste from ships) which concerns also bigger recreational crafts . 

In this respect, new rules are proposed in order to tackle marine litter to make sure that the waste generated on ships or passively fished waste, i.e. waste collected in nets during fishing operations, is not left behind but brought to shore to be properly processed there. 

Under the current Directive on waste from ships, fishing vessels and small recreational craft are exempted from some of the key obligations. 

To address the problem of marine litter from ships (mostly garbage discharges) the Commission proposes to bring fishing vessels and recreational crafts fully within the scope of the Directive, albeit with a differentiated enforcement approach based on length and gross tonnage. 

More details about the European Commission’s proposal can be found here

More information on the EU Strategy on Plastic is available here

Questions & Answers: A European Strategy for Plastics here.  

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