Maritime Affairs

Hundreds of EU staff kick off beach clean season

Hundreds of EU staff kick off beach clean season

Hundreds of EU staff kick off beach clean season

25/03/2019

On 24 March, hundreds of EU staff in Belgium have spent their lazy Sunday on the beach. “What’s new?” you might wonder. Well, they didn’t come for sunbathing, even if the weather was good for it. Nor for taking an early dip into the sea – though swimming in ice cold water is something of a national tradition here (“ijsberen”, or acting like an ice bear). Equipped with gloves, bags, litter picking sticks and a host of 12-starred paraphernalia, officials from the Commission and other institutions came to clean the beach, ahead of the tourist season.

To increase the impact, this EU Beach Clean partnered with the Eneco Clean Beach Cup, Belgium’s largest annual beach clean event. And impactful it was. No less than 11.5 tonnes of litter was collected all along the Belgian coastline! Much of it were small items: pieces of fishing net, plastic bottle lids, cigarette butts… But also buoys, car tyres and even an old carpet ended up in the huge, transparent cylinders of the waste collection point, pilloried for all to see before going to the recycler’s at the end of the day.

Belgian Commissioner Marianne Thyssen encouraged the crowd to clean, but first of all to prevent. The EU’s new legislation on single use plastics and lost fishing gear, ready to be adopted by Parliament this week, will help with that. It discourages the production and use of the 10 single-use plastic items most commonly found on EU beaches. Already now, several Belgian beach clubs and bars have committed to ban single use plastic as of this season.

The event in De Haan also kicks off the EU’s beach clean season, which in 2018 covered 65 countries all over the world. Most of these events are planned for September around the World Cleanup Day. Stay tuned!

New maps show the extent of marine litter in European seas

In what seems to be a perfect timing, the European marine data integrator EMODnet has today launched new maps of beach and seafloor litter. Authorities and the wider society now have a new tool to help track, map and identify where litter ends up in our seas and oceans and check how it is affecting ocean health.

The maps show, among others, the spatial and temporal distribution of beach and seafloor litter based on official monitoring surveys and wider sampling efforts across European countries. The types of litter are also identified, from plastics to glass, wood and metal, and from fishing-related items to land-based products such as cigarettes.

The EMODnet Chemistry Marine Litter Database is the first pan-European Litter Database. Another way in which the EU is paving the way towards plastic-free oceans.

To access the marine litter maps, visit the EMODnet Chemistry Portal: http://www.emodnet-chemistry.eu