Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

The article

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Government drops opposition to Bill banning microplastics

The Government has reversed a decision to oppose a Labour Party Bill banning the use of microplastics and microbeads in personal care items including scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney had originally planned to reject the Prohibition of microplastics Bill on the grounds that it could place Ireland in breach of EU Treaty articles on the free movement of goods and that it was flawed in definitions, enforcement and its “level of ambition”.

But in the Dáil on Thursday he told the Bill’s author, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock, that the Government would not oppose the legislation but would probably abstain and allow it to proceed on the basis that “if and when we produce the Government’s legislative response to this whether in the foreshore Bill or in a separate piece of legislation after the work that needs to be done first”. (…) (irishtimes.com, 4/05/2017)

The news

NORMAN interlaboratory study (ILS) on passive sampling of emerging pollutants

A chemical monitoring on site (CM Onsite) organised by NORMAN Association and JRC in support of the Water Framework Directive

Passive samplers can play a valuable role in monitoring water quality within a legislative framework such as the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD). The time-integrated data from these devices can be used to complement chemical monitoring of priority and emerging contaminants which are difficult to analyse by spot or bottle sampling methods, and to improve risk assessment of chemical pollution. In order to increase the acceptance of passive sampling technology amongst end users and to gain further information about the robustness of the calibration and analytical steps, several inter-laboratory field studies have recently been performed in Europe. Such trials are essential to further validate this sampling method and to increase the confidence of the technological approach for end users. An inter-laboratory study on the use of passive samplers for the monitoring of emerging pollutants was organised in 2011 by the NORMAN association (Network of reference laboratories for monitoring emerging environmental pollutants; http://www.norman-network.net) together with the European DG Joint Research Centre to support the Common Implementation Strategy of the WFD. Thirty academic, commercial and regulatory laboratories participated in the passive sampler comparison exercise and each was allowed to select their own sampler design. All the different devices were exposed at a single sampling site to treated waste water from a large municipal treatment plant. In addition, the organisers deployed in parallel for each target analyte class multiple samplers of a single type which were subsequently distributed to the participants for analysis. This allowed an evaluation of the contribution of the different analytical laboratory procedures to the data variability. The results obtained allow an evaluation of the potential of different passive sampling methods for monitoring selected emerging organic contaminants (pharmaceuticals, polar pesticides, steroid hormones, fluorinated surfactants, triclosan, bisphenol A and brominated flame retardants). In most cases, between laboratory variation of results from passive samplers was roughly a factor 5 larger than within laboratory variability. Similar results obtained for different passive samplers analysed by individual laboratories and also low within laboratory variability of sampler analysis indicate that the passive sampling process is causing less variability than the analysis. This points at difficulties that laboratories experienced with analysis in complex environmental matrices. Where a direct comparison was possible (not in case of brominated flame retardants) analysis of composite water samples provided results that were within the concentration range obtained by passive samplers. However, in the future a significant improvement of the overall precision of passive sampling is needed. The results will be used to inform EU Member States about the potential application of passive sampling methods for monitoring organic chemicals within the framework of the WFD. (2016)

The report

The social costs of marine litter along European coasts

This is the first study to assess the social costs of marine debris washed ashore and litter left behind by beach visitors along different European coasts. Three identical surveys, including a discrete choice experiment, are implemented at six beaches along different European coastlines: the Mediterranean Sea in Greece, the Black Sea in Bulgaria and the North Sea in the Netherlands. Beach visitors are asked for their experiences with beach litter and their willingness to volunteer in beach clean-up programs and their willingness to pay an entrance fee or increase in local tax to clean up marine litter. Significant differences are found between countries. This has important implications for the size and transferability of the estimated social costs of marine litter across Europe.

Roy Brouwer, Dariya Hadzhiyska, Christos Ioakeimidis, Hugo Ouderdorp, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 138, 15 March 2017, Pages 38–49

The article

From macro- to microplastics – Analysis of EU regulation along the life cycle of plastic bags

Plastic pollution and its environmental effects has received global attention the recent years. However, limited attention has so far been directed towards how plastics are regulated in a life cycle perspective and how regulatory gaps can be addressed in order to limit and prevent environmental exposure and hazards of macro- and microplastics. In this paper, we map European regulation taking outset in the life cycle perspective of plastic carrier bags: from plastic bag production to when it enters the environment. Relevant regulatory frameworks, directives and authorities along the life cycle are identified and their role in regulation of plastics is discussed. Most important regulations were identified as: the EU chemical Regulation, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive including the amending Directive regarding regulation of the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, the Waste Framework Directive and the Directive on the Landfill of Waste. The main gaps identified relate to lack of clear definitions of categories of polymers, unambitious recycling rates and lack of consideration of macro- and microplastics in key pieces of legislation. We recommend that polymers are categorized according to whether they are polymers with the same monomer constituents (homopolymers) or with different monomer constituents (copolymers) and that polymers are no longer exempt from registration and evaluation under REACH. Plastics should furthermore have the same high level of monitoring and reporting requirements as hazardous waste involving stricter requirements to labelling, recordkeeping, monitoring and control over the whole lifecycle. Finally, we recommend that more ambitious recycle and recovery targets are set across the EU. Regulation of the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags should also apply to heavyweight plastic carrier bags. Last, the Marine and Water Framework Directives should specifically address plastic waste affecting water quality.

Ida M. Steensgaard, Kristian Syberg, Sinja Rist, Nanna B. Hartmann, Alessio Boldrin, Steffen Foss Hansen, Environmental Pollution, Volume 224, May 2017, Pages 289–299

The article

Report from the Commission to the european parliament and the council assessing Member States’ monitoring programmes under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) provides a framework in which Member States must take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain ‘good environmental status’ in all of the EU’s marine waters by 2020. Achieving this objective means that the EU’s seas are clean, healthy and productive and the use of the marine environment is sustainable. The MSFD includes eleven qualitative “descriptors” describing what the environment should look like when good environmental status has been achieved. Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters guides Member States on how this objective is to be achieved.

European Commission, Brussels, 16.1.2017