Hazardous Substances and Marine Litter
Hazardous substances and marine litter, including micro plastics contamination, represents one of top-three main threats to the Baltic Sea environment and marine life. Many pollutants represent “old sins” such as industry emissions and previously used pesticides etc now banned. PCBs, heavy metals, dioxins and the more recent addition flame retardants are all still present in the environment and not least in fish and mammals. In fact fat tissue from Baltic Harbour Porpoises contain some of the highest concentrations of pollutants in all of the EU.
Undesired occurrence and effects of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals in the environment is a global emerging concern, as recognized by UNEP. Pharmaceutical residues have been detected in environmental compartments of the Baltic Sea, but their environmental fate, possible accumulation and effects on biota are still poorly known. Gaps in existing legislation with regards to safe collection, recovery and disposal of unused and expired medicines leads to pharmaceuticals still ending up in the sea. According to the Status Report on pharmaceuticals in the BSR (2017), over half of unused human medicinal products in EU is not collected due to low level of awareness and lacking collection schemes. Thus requiring urgent attention, CCB decided to focus on addressing consumer behaviour and disposal options within the project “Pills Free Baltic“.
Different kinds of plastic, large and small, is also present in the Baltic Sea although the problem is in parts smaller than in other sea areas because of limited tide and currents here. Up to 80% of marine litter sources are estimated to be land-based due to: poor waste management in households; inadequate waste infrastructure; lack of or inadequate water treatment plants; dumping of industrial waste and littering from coastal cities and coastal tourism destinations. CCB recognises a strong need for further knowledge and experience and fully supports a calling on EU-wide ban of micro plastics added to consumer products in order to prevent pollution of the marine environment.
After the “Plastic Free Baltic” campaign, a new CCB project “Plastic Free Ocean“, funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation, will support implementation of the EU Plastics Strategy and the idea is to address the growing pollution of the Baltic Sea (and through it – the world ocean) by single-use plastic items, primary and secondary microplastics, and associated toxic chemicals.
CCB is also taking part of #OurBlueLung campaign, led by Seas at Risk, to put pressure on EU governments to respect the commitment they made under the EU marine law to deliver clean and healthy seas by 2020. Throughout 2019 and 2020, we will take action at different points in time to remind governments of their commitment, focusing on five important threats to our seas and ocean: overfishing, plastics, noise pollution, intensive farming and chemical pollution.
CCB aims at raising public awareness on pharmaceuticals and micro plastics pollution problems in the BSR, as well as addressing NGO views and findings to relevant stakeholders and companies producing consumer products to reduce the negative environmental and socio-economic effects of marine litter in the marine environment and to reshape according to the circular economy.
How is CCB working with this issue?
- Lobbying to ban microplastics from consumer care products by law
- Lobbying to set up EU marine litter reduction target of 50% by 2025
- Encouraging Baltic Sea States to fully implement HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter, applying innovative and radical reduction strategies
- Raising awareness on the issue of pharmaceutical and micro plastics pollution. Visit our action sites Plastic Free Ocean, Plastic Free Baltic and Pills Free Baltic
What can countries do together?
Sharing information and national best practices, development and implementation of legislation and policies under EU and HELCOM framework.
What can each country do?
Increase knowledge of the sources, threats and prevention measures regarding products containing micro plastics, especially personal care products. Improve pharmaceutical waste streams management and the collection system of obsolete pharmaceuticals at local, regional and national level.
What can you do?
- Recycle your plastic garbage
- Avoid products containing microplastics
- Join beach cleanups
- Support NGOs in their work combating marine litter
- Help fill data gaps on marine litter by using mobile apps
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Relevant links to international NGOs working on hazardous substances and marine litter
- “The cosmetics clean-up” (Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre, 2015, 318 KB)
- “State of Europe´s seas” (EEA, European Environmental Agency, 2015, 21 MB)
- “European Water Assessment” (EEA, European Environmental Agency, 2018, 13.3 MB)
- “Status report on pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea region” (HELCOM, 2017, 10MB)
- Marine Litter Action Plan (HELCOM, 2015)
|Ida Carlén||Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Officer||Sweden|
|Nils Höglund||Fisheries Policy Officer||Sweden|
|Susanna Knotz||BUND, Friends of the Earth Germany||Germany|
|Tapani Veistola||Vuosaari Harbour / Finnish Association for Nature Conservation||Finland||+358 922 808 firstname.lastname@example.org|