Our oceans and seas are increasingly becoming a waste dump. Plastic waste is floating in huge quantities on the seas' surface before it sinks to the bottom or degrades into micro-plastics. Marine habitats worldwide are contaminated with man-made litter and coastlines are littered with waste and debris posing environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problems. It is widely recognized that marine litter is a global problem and requires international cooperation and involvement of many different stakeholders at all levels.
Since 2010 and further to the conference "Marine litter: plastic soup and more", the European Commission's DG Environment has been working with a broad range of stakeholders, mainly to facilitate the coordination and cooperation between them upon the initiative of Commissioner Potočnik.
The Commission published a Commission Staff Working Document on 31 October 2012 providing an overview of relevant EU legislation, policies and strategies that touch on this problem. The document also includes an indication of on-going and future initiatives in this area.
The issue gained further political momentum during the Rio+20 Summit, which committed to significantly reduce marine debris by 2025. More recently, the Commission adopted its Proposal for a new "General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020: Living well, within the limits of our planet" (or 7th EAP). This document states that in order to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital, the programme shall ensure that by 2020 "an EU-wide quantitative reduction target for marine litter is established".
The German Government through its Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) is taking a leading role in the fight against marine litter both at EU and regional level in the OSPAR and HELCOM Conventions. Now the European Commission and UBA join forces to organise the International Conference on the Prevention and Management of Marine Litter in European Seas, due to take place in Berlin from 10 -12 April 2013.
The main aim of this European marine litter conference is to step up work towards meeting the Rio+20 commitment and defining an EU-wide reduction target as proposed in the 7th EAP. The conference will facilitate and encourage cooperation between different stakeholders in order to stimulate the development of regional action plans. It will be part of the European contribution to the Honolulu strategy as the global approach on what measures and actions to take in order to tackle the problem.
Bringing existing and planned marine litter initiatives to the attention of a wider audience, including politicians, is a further objective of the conference.
The event will support the information exchange amongst the Member States and a coherent implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) at European level in order to combat litter pollution of marine waters. The focus will be on the identification and implementation of programmes of measures in 2015/2016 by Member States as required for the further implementation of the MSFD.
The conference will be open to a maximum of 200 participants. Public sector invitees include representatives from Member States, from Regional Seas Conventions, EC representatives and local authorities. Invitations will also be sent to stakeholders, e.g. private sector associations of plastic producers, converters, recyclers, packaging industry, retailers, ferry ships, cruise ships, fishermen, port authorities as well as consumer organisations, environmental NGOs and research institutes.
The conference website is accessible here.
MEMO/12/908 "New Environment Action Programme until 2020"