Latest Briefing in Climate, water and energy for 2012

Marine litter issues, impacts and action-contributing to a marine litter strategy for Scotland

Increasingly, policy makers and the public are experiencing the problem of litter in our seas and on our beaches. Marine litter has a substantial impact on Scotland’s society, economy and marine environment - in 2010, a total of 53,162 items of litter were collected on a sample of Scottish beaches (along a length of only 22.3 km.)

The term marine litter covers manufactured or processed solid material disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment from land- and sea-based activities. The majority consists of plastics, and is highly persistent in the marine environment, with the lifetime of plastics estimated between 100-1000 years.

Image showing the origin of Beach litter - Marine Conservation Society (MCS) (2010)At the global scale, studies estimate that the greatest proportion (up to 80%) is from land-based sources, with similar proportions in Scotland. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) (2010) revealed that the greatest proportions of litter originate from the public and non-sourced sectors (figure 1). In the MCS survey, an average of over 2380 items per km were found in Scotland, higher than the UK average of 1969 items/km. Plastic is dominant, accounting for 63.3% of marine litter at the UK level; an increase of 25% since 2009.

Read more

Published on 2 February 2012 in Sustainability and Communities , Climate, water and energy , Ecosystems and biodiversity