On 3 June 2021, the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform hosted a webinar on Policy solutions to stop marine litter and plastic pollution in the framework of the EU Green Week.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that an average of 8 million tons of plastics enter the oceans on a yearly basis. Either transported by rivers, piled up along coastlines or left at sea by sectors like industrial fisheries and shipping, plastics and microplastics released into freshwaters and the marine environment pose a global threat to the ecosystems, biodiversity, animal and human health.

As a very complex transboundary issue that also bears serious economic consequences, the fight against marine litter and plastic pollution needs cooperation and joint efforts at all levels: community and multistakeholder involvement are essential to find viable solutions for ending this plague.  

EU waste legislation including the Single-use Plastic Directive (SUP) and the European Green Deal policy framework, with the Plastics Strategy and the new Circular Economy Action Plan at its core, are supportive of any efforts in this direction. The same applies for EU funding instruments such as LIFE and Horizon Europe, with its specific ‘mission area on healthy oceans.

This webinar was attended by over 60 participants and shed lights on the policy solutions against marine litter and plastic pollution identified in the context of the Interreg Europe projects and beyond. You can watch the recording below as well as access the presentations. 

Webinar recording

Webinar agenda overview

Navigate to the discussion topics of interest in the webinar agenda overview below.

00:01:35 Introduction to the Interreg Europe and the Policy Learning Platform by Astrid Severin Thematic Expert of resource and environment efficiency.

00:07:42 Keynote speech by Laura Koerselman, from SYSTEMIQ on the cutting-edge assessment report ‘Breaking the plastic wave’ proposing pathways to a systemic change on ocean plastic pollution.

  • Q&A 00:21:09 Your report shows us we must choose a holistic approach to tackle this problem, would you agree?
  • Q&A 00:21:50 You might think marine litter is only a problem for coastal regions or islands, but 80% of the waste that flows into the ocean is land-based.  This is something that all the regions must tackle, is this correct?
  • Q&A 00:22:41 What is your suggestion for regions to tackle this problem? What can they do to engage people in the fight against marine litter?

00:25:47 Presentation by Eleni Tzagaraki, from the Region of Crete (CAPONLITTER), on the challenges of Crete in dealing with marine litter from coastal tourism.

  • Q&A 00:33:05 Are you happy with the progress you have been making so far?  
  • Q&A 00:34:12 In line with the findings presented by the keynote speaker, have you considered tendering out a chemical recycling facility for plastic in Crete?
  • Q&A 00:34:55 What is the starting point to tackle plastic pollution and marine litter? What would you suggest to other regions?

00:36:05 Presentation by Isabelle Poitou from MerTerre (CAPONLITTER) on policies and practices to prevent marine litter resulting from coastal tourism and recreational activities.

  • Q&A 00:47:30 Are there any attempts in France to reduce plastic bottles?
  • Q&A 00:50:04 Do you think there is enough infrastructure available in France to deal with plastic waste?
  • Q&A 00:53:21 Can you suggest other measures/actions landlock cities/regions can adopt to avoid plastic littering?

00:58:23 Presentation by Sofia Savova, from Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency (PLASTECO) on facilitating the market placement of alternatives to single-use plastics.

  • Q&A 1:11:21 Do you think plastic value chains can grow sustainably in the future? Can you also elaborate on your experience within the PLASTECO project?
  • Q&A 1:12:40 What are you thinking about when you mention creating a market for secondary raw materials?

Panel discussion

Q&A 1:19:10 Could you elaborate on micro-plastics, as the number one plastic pollution problem?

Q&A 1:25:49 What do you think is the most important point to stop marine litter? 

Handouts

Key Learnings

From this webinar, we can highlight some major insights for local and regional policymakers:

  • Can we break the plastic wave? Current trends are gruesome. If we do not act now on municipal solid plastics waste reduction and prevention the amount of plastics stocked in the oceans will be of 646 million tons in 2040: four times the figures of 2016.
  • Yes, we can! By leaving business as usual behind and triggering system change based on the reduction of plastics items such as plastic films, lightweight plastic carrier bags and bottles as well as their recycling and substitution with sustainable alternatives we can usher in a new era for the plastics economy.  SYSTEMIQ estimates that by applying all available technologies and adopting targeted policy measures now we can dramatically reduce costs of pollution sustained by businesses and governments, create 12 million jobs and enable the sharp abatement of plastics and microplastics leakage rate: from 29 down to 5 million metric tons in 2040.
  • Preventing litter: an essential requirement for sustainable tourism. The extraordinary environmental value many European coastlines like those of the Crete Island is threatened by the skyrocketing increase of marine litter during summer months (+117%). As a result, 213 microplastic items can be found on average in a kilogram of sand. The BlueIslands project (Interreg MED), the Costa Nostrum protocol and the good practices tested out by CAPonLITTER project partners demonstrate that an overarching approach based on information and awareness raising, improved waste management and the involvement of public and private bathing establishments are fundamental to tackle this issue.
  • Anybody can be the protagonist of a system change. Preserving clean beaches and a healthy marine environment depends on us. The environmental NGO MerTerre, partner in the CAPonLITTER project, informed the audience that successful eco-tourism strategies can be designed and implemented to engage tourists, fishermen, boat owners and residents alike in voluntary beach clean-ups. It also stressed that economic signals such as charges applied by shops on items very prone to littering like single-use carrier bags and local taxes on plastic packaging can be effective deterrents and help solve the plastic crisis. All territories bear the shared responsibility to act on preventing and reducing land-based sources of plastic pollution: this is not just up to coastal regions!
  • Enabling the breakthrough of alternatives. The Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency (SZERDA, PLASTECO project partner from Bulgaria) stressed that to avoid unpleasant discoveries like the ‘plastic island’ found floating on the Black Sea in July 2020, regions must step up their efforts to boost prevention and recycling while supporting the market deployment of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics. The deadline for transposing the SUP Directive is just around the corner (July 2021) and much needs to be done to assess barriers for alternatives, strengthen eco-labels schemes, boost the uptake of alternatives through green public procurement (GPP) schemes and develop secondary raw plastic markets.
  • Reduce impact, care for the planet’s health… and yours! 85% of webinar participants considered that environment and economy are paying a medium-high price in their regions because of marine litter. Help reverse the loss of marine ecosystems and biodiversity (50%) and minimise environmental and health risks (40%) were identified as the main reasons to take action, which is something that important share of participants (60%) is already doing.

You want to stop marine litter and plastic pollution but you don’t know where to start? The Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform can assist you in addressing this challenge. With matchmaking sessions and peer reviews we can provide you with experiences and in-depth knowledge from regions that are finding effective solutions. Curious about who these services work? Visit our expert support webpage and contact us.