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background and aims

Our oceans and seas are increasingly becoming a waste dump. Plastic waste is floating in high quantities on the seas surface before it sinks to the bottom or degrades into micro-plastics. Marine habitats and coastlines worldwide are contaminated with man-made litter which can pose environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problems. It is widely recognized that marine litter is a global problem which requires international cooperation and involvement of different stakeholders at all levels.

The European Commission's DG Environment – under the initiative of Commissioner Potočnik - has been working to facilitate coordination and cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders. The German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is strongly engaged in this topic, e.g. as co-lead of the EC-Technical Working Group “Marine Litter” and within the corresponding regional work under OSPAR. In 2012 the German Environment Minister published a 10-point-programme where special emphasis has been laid on the protection of the world`s oceans.

At the meeting of the Marine Directors in December 2011, Germany offered to host an international marine litter conference to address the need to develop regional action plans. The issue gained further political momentum during the Rio+20 Summit, which committed to significantly reduce marine debris by 2025. In late 2012 the Commission published a Commission Staff Working Document providing an overview of relevant EU legislation, policies and strategies that touch on this problem. More recently, the Commission adopted its Proposal for a new "General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020: Living well, within the limits of our planet" (or 7th EAP). This document states that in order to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital, the programme shall ensure that by 2020 "an EU-wide quantitative reduction target for marine litter is established".

Germany and the European Commission joined forces to organize the International Conference on Prevention and Management of Marine Litter in European Seas.  By sharing information across borders, initiating joint actions and identifying common goals it is our hope that this conference will make a difference in the collective fight against marine litter.

The conference aimed to:

  1. Start filling in the obligation of Rio+20 through the facilitation and stimulation of cooperation between different stakeholders in order to stimulate the development of regional action plans.
  2. Be the European contribution to the Honolulu strategy as the global approach on what possible measures and actions to take in order to tackle the problem.
  3. Bring existing and planned marine litter initiatives to the attention of a wider audience, including politicians by providing a platform to collect and share good practices and commitments.
  4. Support information exchange amongst Member States and a coherent implementation of the MSFD on European level in order to combat litter pollution of marine waters. Focus will be laid on the identification and implementation of programs of measures in 2015/2016 by MS as required for the further implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). 

Participants of the conference included: Public sector representatives from Member States, Regional Seas Conventions, EC representatives and local authorities, stakeholders e.g. representatives from private sector associations of plastic producers, converters, recyclers, packaging industry, retailers, ferry ships, cruise ships, fisherman, port authorities as well as consumer organizations, environmental NGOs and research institutes.

The results of the conference, together with the Issue-paper, will be brought to the attention of the Marine and Water Directors of the EU Member States at their meeting in Ireland in May 2013.

The conference took place in the premises of the “ABION Spreebogen Waterside Hotel". For further details and travel information please visit:



The Conference Report is online here.

The "Message from Berlin" is online here.

The final version of the Issue Paper is online here.

Marine Litter Conference on Twitter