Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

German Minister insists on less marine litter

​​New regional action plans to combat marine litter in Baltic Sea and North-East Atlantic have been key topics today during the annual tour of the German Federal Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks in Stralsund, Germany. HELCOM, upon invitation, gave insight into its achievements in protecting the Baltic marine environment and the 2-month old Regional for Marine Litter. Representatives of the municipality, civil society and the media joined the Minister’s troupe in learning details about the litter issue at the local level.  From left: Darius Campbell, Executive Secretary of OSPAR; Monika Stankiewicz, Executiv​e Secretary of HELCOM; Barbara Hendricks, German Federal Environment Minister; and Heike Imhoff, Chair of HELCOM Gear group, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.​”The actions against this urgent conservation issue are now intensifying at many fronts, as the meeting of G7 heads of state and government proved in the beginning of June this year. We need to create ownership, in particular as regards the local and the regional level. Global combat against marine litter can’t succeed without strong support from the Regional Seas Conventions,” said Barbara Hendricks, German Federal Minister from the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. “As the tour today has shown, the importance of local level should not be disregarded, whether in sufficient management of shipping disposals at ports or safer practices concerning fishing nets.  “The only way to ensure that the actions against litter are accomplished for real is that all actors join the governments’ work,” urged Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of HELCOM. HELCOM launched last June the complete for Marine Litter for the Baltic Sea, listing over thirty specific regional actions which are required for unburdening the Baltic Sea from litter. The list of actions in the HELCOM litter plan covers waste management and sewage water systems; remediation and removal of dumpsites; and tackling top items such as microparticles, polystyrene foam, plastic bags, sanitary litter in sewage, and bottles and containers.  The Action plan for marine litter also covers sea-based sources which entail developing best practices for handling waste from fisheries and ships, as well as collection of abandoned fishing gear such as ghost nets. As according to research, most of marine litter derives from households and consumer practices, actions addressing education and outreach on marine litter are also included in the document. Marine litter has a large impact on the environment. While an evident aesthetic problem, litter impairs marine organisms, threatens human health and safety, and increases socio-economic costs. It is estimated that three quarters of litter is plastics, including tiny micro particles which may end up climbing up the food chain. Fast facts on marine litter in the Baltic Sea​- Consumer behaviour is the top reason for marine litter in the Baltic Sea.>- 48% of marine litter in the Baltic Sea originates from household‐related waste, including sanitary waste, while waste generated by recreational or tourism activities would add up to 33%.Microplastics- Up to 40 tonnes of microplastics – particles <5mm in diameter – are released annually into the Baltic Sea catchment through the use of products like body wash, shower gels, and scrubs.> – A growing number of scientific studies show that microplastics can bring serious harm to the marine environment and its inhabitants. When in water, microplastics act as magnets, attracting and carrying bacteria and various contaminants that “colonize” the particles.>>- Around 130 tons of polyethylene particles from personal care products are flushed down the household drains in the Baltic Sea catchment area each year.​Beach litter- The amounts of litter collected in selected Baltic beaches ranged from 76 items/100m at rural beaches to 237 items/100m at urban beaches. Different beach types were monitored in 2012–13 in Estonia, Latvia, Finland and Sweden. > – There are an estimated 150–450 tons of lost fish nets in the seabed of the Polish territorial sea and Polish exclusive economic zone alone.>​​Some global figures- The world annual plastic prod uction has increased dramatically, from 1.7 million tonnes in the 1950s to approximately 280 million tonnes in 2011. Each year up to 10 percent of global plastics production, which is estimated to account for 299 million tons in 2015, ends up as marine litter.  > – The estimated proportion of plastic among total global marine debris ranges from 60 to 80%, reaching 90 to 95% in some areas.  MARLIN Project, 2013; ARCADIS report, 2012;  MARLIN Project, 2013;  Baltic Eye Policy Brief, April 2015;  ibid;  ibid;  MARLIN Project, 2013;  WWF Poland, 2011;  PlasticsEurope, 2012; ​ Gregory & Ryan 1997.​​* * *Note for editorsThe Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * *For more information, please contact:Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

New regional action plans to combat marine litter in Baltic Sea and North-East Atlantic have been key topics during the annual tour of the German Federal Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks today in Stralsund, Germany.