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What is Marine litter?

Marine litter (sometimes called marine debris) is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material which is discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment,. Marine litter consists of mostly very slowly degradable waste items such as plastic, polystyrene, metals and glass.

Marine litter is found on the beaches and shores, on the water surface, in the water column and on the seabed. It can be found near the source of input but also can be transported over a long distances with sea currents and winds.

Marine litter causes marine environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problems, including possible transfer of toxic substances and invasive species, destruction of marine habitats and loss of biodiversity. It also threatens marine life through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion as well as poses a risk to human health and life. (Find more at or

Marine litter entering the marine and coastal environment has multiple sources that can be divided into two major sources as shown below.  



Main sea-based sources

Main land-based sources

. Merchant shipping, ferries and cruise liners;

. Fishing vessels;

. Military fleets and research vessels;

. Pleasure craft;

. Offshore oil and gas platforms;

. Aquaculture installations;

. Waterway recreational activities (such as   diving and marinas)

. Municipal landfills (waste dumps) located on the coast;

. Riverine transport of waste from landfills or other sources along rivers and other inland waterways (canals);

. Discharge of untreated municipal sewage and storm water (including occasional overflows);

. Industrial facilities (solid waste from landfills and untreated water); and

. Tourism (recreational visitors to the coast   and beach goers)