PEER Locations

SYKE - Finnish Environment Institute (Finland) DCE - Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, Aarhus University (Denmark) EC JRC - European Commission, Joint Research Centre IRSTEA - National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (France) CEH - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (United Kingdom) Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany) CIENS - Oslo Centre for Interdisciplinary Environmental and Social Research peer

Recommendations for tracking marine and riverine litter in Europe

02/16/2017, JRC

The JRC has recently published two of a series of thematic reports that give recommendations and guidance on how to monitor and identify sources of litter that reach the seas, in order to help design measures to tackle marine litter.
Rivers are a major source of marine litter. ©Fotolia, author: overcrew zoom

Marine litter is recognised as a threat to both the marine ecosystem and human activities, and therefore is regarded by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) as one of the Descriptors for measuring the "Good Environmental Status" of the Seas (D 10).

In order to plan and implement measures to address marine litter, it is crucial to understand where it comes from. Much of it comes via river networks. However, there is a lack of information about the amount of litter being transported through rivers to the sea, and there are no harmonised methodologies for providing quantitative data for comparable assessments of riverine litter.

An understanding of how much litter enters the seas from different rivers can help design efficient measures to stop litter being input upstream. In order to ensure the maximum efficiency of interventions, methodologies need to be harmonised in order to have reliable information and to enable comparisons. The MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter* (TG Marine Litter) has therefore published a report on “Riverine Litter Monitoring – Options and recommendations”, which gives recommendations to Member States on how to monitor river litter as part of their overall measures to tackle marine litter. The findings of the report have been considered by the JRC's RIMMEL (River and Marine floating macro litter Monitoring and Modelling of Environmental Loading) project in establishing a monitoring network.

TG  Marine Litter has also published a report on “Identifying Sources of Marine Litter”, which gives an overview of existing methodologies for source identification, and outlines one of the most promising approaches for determining sources – a Matrix Score Technique, which considers the possibility that specific items originate from more than one source. It also presents a series of other parameters that can be used to analyse datasets, with regard to the use, origin and risk of items recorded in the marine or coastal environments, and gives recommendations to help identify sources, from the early stage of data collection and site characterisation to bringing in the knowledge of local stakeholders to better determine where litter is coming from and what needs to be done to prevent it.

Both reports will provide support to EU Member States and other stakeholders in the battle against marine litter.

*The MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter

The MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter (TG Marine Litter) was set up to provide scientific and technical advice for the implementation of the MSFD requirements and support Member States with regard to D 10. Made up of experts from EU Member States, Regional Sea Conventions, EU Institutions and other stakeholders, this group is led by DG Environment, and is chaired by the JRC, the Institut Français de Recherche pour l'exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) and the German Environment Agency.