Marine litter is a global challenge, affecting the world’s oceans, seas, coastlines and shores.
The problem is largely caused by a range of very slowly degradable material such as plastics, metals and glass. The most commonly found litter at sea and washed ashore is plastic.
Marine plastics have a negative impact on our marine environment, our economy and they threaten human health. Larger plastic items in our seas can entangle animals, smother habitats, damage tourism and pose a serious risk to life and livelihood by causing breakdown of vessels at sea. As a result of sunlight and wave exposure, plastics become fragmented, making their way into the marine ecosystem by ingestion, consumed by creatures as small as plankton to as large as sea mammals. Plastic fragments cause obstruction and physical damage to the digestive tracts of animals which eat them and can result in death, plastics may also act as a vector for contaminants.
Tackling marine litter requires governments, industry and communities to reduce the amount of litter entering the marine environment from land and sea-based sources and to also remove litter that is already there. The Scottish Government is helping address these issues with many policies outlined in our litter Strategies. More information can be found in the following section.