Hazardous Substances and Marine Litter

The problem

Hazardous_waHazardous 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.

A social media campaign on hazardous substances in products – #ThinkBeforeYouBuy – run in December 2018 under the framework of NonHazCity project, with more than 190,000 people reached.

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.

The Goal

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
See all CCB Publications about Hazardous substances and marine litter in Publications.



September 5, 2019

CCB joined the Ocean Call for G7

We have joined and signed the Ocean Call, which carries the voice and the commitments of more than 50 organizations mobilized for the ocean alongside Surfrider Foundation Europe.

Following the G7 Summit, the Ocean Call will also be staged at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York in September, at the COP 25 in Chile in December and finally at the COP 15 on Biodiversity in China in 2020.

Read the full declaration here.

March 6, 2019

Real actions, not ´realistic´ wishes – a recipe for an updated Baltic Sea Action plan

On 6-7 March high-level representatives met at the 40th Meeting of the Helsinki Commission. On this occasion, CCB was grateful to share the concerns of civil society organizations and almost a million individual members of CCB´s network around the Baltic Sea. Our concerns were (and are) connected with continuous and increasing violations of the fundamental principles and provisions of the Helsinki Convention:

  • Precautionary principle and science-based management;
  • Transparency, trust and sharing information to minimize transboundary impacts;
  • Joint measures for reaching joint goals, instead of prioritising actions of “overriding national interest”.

Read the full CCB´s statement here.


March 5, 2018

Joint NGO letter to ministers about HELCOM BSAP

A joint NGO letter from CCB, Oceana and WWF to the minsters of environment concerning the progress towards BSAP goals in 2021. This letter was sent as part of the Ministerial meeting in HELCOM, 6th of March 2018:  Joint Letter to ministers on BSAP WWF Oceana CCB


February 28, 2017

To reach the SDGs globally the Baltic-wide actions need to be implemented first!

logo_2rToday, high-level representatives of the HELCOM Contracting Parties will meet in Helsinki to discuss how the Baltic Sea Region can contribute to the global goals on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources by 2030. Actions related to eutrophication, marine litter and climate change will be given special focus in the discussions.

On behalf of environmentally concerned citizens of the Baltic Sea catchment, Coalition Clean Baltic would like to share some input to this work and bring to the attention of regional decision-makers the urgent needs to be addressed in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) and, even more importantly, to save the Baltic Sea from further deterioration.

Read the full statement here.







March 11, 2016

Statement at the 37th Meeting of the Helsinki Commission, 10-11 March 2016

Once again, we would like to share with you the concerns of civil society organizations and over 800,000 individual members of CCB’s network around the Baltic Sea.

Read Statement here: CCB_statement_HELCOM37_2016

February 15, 2016

Information by Greenpeace Russia about alarming situation at Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill in Leningrad Oblast, Russia

Based on information received from Greenpeace Russia, CCB would like to raise attention of HELCOM Contracting Parties and Observer Organizations to the alarming situation with Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill in Leningrad Oblast, nearby St.Petersburg.

Read Statement here: 7-1 Information by Greenpeace Russia about alarming situation at Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill_CCB


November 19, 2015

Funding the EU MSFD Programs of Measures

A crucial part of the coherent implementation of the BSAP and the EU MSFD is the commitment to fund the needed measures to reach the GES targets. CCB is becoming concerned that several CPs being also EU MS have argued at different occasions, including the IG PoM and EU MSCG, that funding is a major problem for implementing the MSFD PoMs.  For a number of reasons CCB considers these claims unjustified.

Read statement here: 4-17 Funding the EU MSFD Programs of Measures_CCB

Relevant links to international NGOs working on hazardous substances and marine litter

Friends of the Earth – foei.org/ WWF – worldwildlife.org/ Seas at Risk – seas-at-risk.org/ Oceana – oceana.org/

Other links


Hazardous substances
Eugeniy LobanovEcoideaBelaruslobanow@gmail.com
Marine litter
Ida CarlénBiodiversity and Nature Conservation OfficerSweden
Nils HöglundFisheries Policy OfficerSweden
Susanna KnotzBUND, Friends of the Earth GermanyGermany
Tapani VeistolaVuosaari Harbour / Finnish Association for Nature ConservationFinland+358 922 808 266