Reducing litter in the coastal and marine environment is a major and prior challenge to preserve biota, ecosystems, as well as goods and services that humans derive from seas and oceans. The identification of the most abundant beach litter items, the so-called Top Marine Litter Items, is a matter of concern for the MSFD, the upcoming EU Plastics Strategy and in general for the prioritisation of measures against marine litter. Specific measures are needed to prevent further inputs and reduce the abundance of litter items. Based on a compiled beach litter data set from 2016, most abundant items on EU beaches have been identified.
The quantification of items through beach litter monitoring enables a ranking of items based on their numerical abundance. While a few studies from Regional Sea Conventions (RSCs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and research projects have ranked items by their occurrence on beaches at different spatial scales, there was no EU wide analysis available.
The report has been developed by JRC within the TG Marine Litter. It lists an updated compilation of available studies and publications of top item lists. Different calculation methods, leading to different results, have been described and applied on a set of European beach litter data that had been collected within the TG Marine Litter. Data is based on 1-year sampling (2016) and included the outcome from monitoring programs, clean-up campaigns and research projects.
Results, also with focus on single use products, have been provided in support to the development of the EU Plastics Strategy. The data analysis involved spatial-temporal data grouping at European, regional and national level, including also seasonal variability of beach litter. A total of 355671 marine litter items have been recorded during 679 surveys on 276 European beaches.
Furthermore the report gives a brief outlook on the potential consideration of risk-related item properties, leading to a prioritization based on potential harm. The report should provide information in order to develop and implement most efficient measures against marine litter.