Waste & Waterways

Waste & Waterways

Most waste eventually ends up in the marine environment.

Marine waste, or marine litter, is any man-made material that has ended up in the marine environment after being accidentally lost or deliberately discarded at sea or on shore. Approximately 10 million tonnes of litter end up in the world’s oceans and seas each year. The term covers a range of materials, including those that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage and sewerage systems, or the wind” (European Commission, 2013). It is estimated that 70% of marine litter is on the seabed, 15% is floating in the water column and 15% is what we find on our shores (OSPAR, 1995).

Marine litter consists of a wide range of materials, including plastic, metal, wood, rubber, glass and paper. However, it is dominated by plastic which accounts for 80% of the items found on our beaches.

Marine Litter is harmful to the environment.

  • Marine Litter can become a health and safety issue for beach users, e.g. broken bottles, food packaging, may attract rats.
  • Plastics do not leave the environment but are broken down over time into smaller pieces which can be ingested by wildlife or carry toxins
  • Microbeads (a.ka. microplastics) carry toxins which wildlife may ingest causing harm to them and us as they end up in our food chain.
  • Floating debris can carry invasive species.
  • Larger marine debris can crush sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs and sea grass.

Coastal/marine wildlife can:

  • Ingest plastics causing blockages in the digestive system resulting in malnutrition/starvation/death
  • Suffocate by swallowing or being covered by plastic bags (e.g. sea turtles eat plastic bags which can be mistaken for jelly fish.
  • Become entangled in fishing nets and ropes

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