Marine litter issues, impacts and actions

A study that will contribute to developing a marine litter strategy for Scotland’s seas in light of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

7 Workshop Output

7.1 Workshop Overview

The Marine Litter workshop was held at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute on Friday 18th February. Twenty eight participants were involved from across different sectors and geographical regions of Scotland as well as a representative of the British Plastics Federation, who have a UK wide remit.

The workshop was run in two halves. The morning session explored existing reduction, removal and governance issues and arrangements, and the afternoon's looked at how to reduce future inputs of marine litter by source (land, coastal and marine). The participants were split into three groups and rotated around each of the topics. Key points emerging from facilitated discussion were recorded on flipchart paper, with responses on view to subsequent groups.

Raw data from this exercise is collated in Appendix 1. Here we present a summary of the discussions arranged by the themes that emerged for each question.

7.2 Workshop Themes

7.2.1 Chain of responsibility

One of the key points raised related to the chain of responsibility for marine litter - indeed we should be reducing the overall scale of litter rather than collecting it. While the manufacturers of products might not be directly responsible for the act of littering, their product design and use is related to the impact that their release into the marine environment (including nano particles from broken down plastics). Indeed consumers may not themselves be litterers either and some responsibility will lie with ineffective waste management (e.g. uncovered landfills). Consumers often pay for litter cleanup through local taxation, raising the question of the extent to which the Scottish Government's view that the "polluter pays" principle should apply. Ways forward included setting up packaging partnerships with retail to help reduce the problem; possibly linking up to marine industries and businesses need to reduce the opportunity for customers to litter.

Local authority budget cuts mean that funding for community services such as clean ups and beach litter enforcement is likely to become more difficult despite a responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act to clean beaches. It was suggested that a devolvement of land fill tax to Scotland may help, particularly given that landfill is becoming more expensive and less accessible.

The Crown Estate might, as a major landowner, be encouraged to establish coastal monitoring but has no official responsibility to do so. At the moment the public pays through taxes, but the actual costs to local government were not available to us at the workshop, and the environmental costs and impacts are also sometimes unclear. Research to establish the costs and benefits of litter reduction approaches would allow cost savings to be made, perhaps releasing LA funds for other public services.

7.2.2 Industry efforts

Industry reports that there has been a recent reduction in use of plastic bags (1 billion fewer/year). It was also emphasised that biodegradable bags do not biodegrade in a cold marine environment. Encouraging re-use (e.g. deposit/return) has often been too costly to implement (e.g. BARRS one of few companies left who still do this), however if such an approach could be expanded across sectors it might prove more effective. Alternatives to plastics are hard to identify but product development and reduced packaging needs to be encouraged or legislated for. Improvement options include using wood or cardboard sticks for cotton buds and possibly even fungi based or popcorn packaging materials. The pros and cons of plastic versus paper bags continue to be debated. Product development including truly degradable plastics is one option, but surely a reduction in packaging, the use of alternatives (e.g. use of fungus in USA for packaging), use of recyclable materials, improved labelling of biodegradable plastics and the minimisation of the production of single use items would all help.

Retailers should be encouraged to stock products which are less harmful to the marine environment, particularly in the case of coastal businesses: if litter is bought there then provide facilities for disposal. More engagement is needed along the lines of "love where you live" (MacDonald's, Wrigley's funding etc). The plastics industry sees representational interest: they do not 'own' the waste but it affects the industry's reputation.

7.2.3 Litter reduction and collection initiatives

It appears that there are many initiatives relating to litter reduction in Scotland. Campaigns and behaviour change tools are raising social awareness of the issues, but littering is often still socially acceptable and convenient. These awareness raising campaigns and behaviour change tools include efforts by Scottish Water such as "Bag it and Bin it" relating to household waste and good practise guidance for fat disposal which can be found by searching Scottish Water's website. It was noted that such initiatives need to be kept in the media otherwise littering behaviour returns to pre-campaign levels. However such awareness campaigns have been ongoing for many years in some cases, and compliance with campaigns is not mandatory. There was widespread agreement that appropriate behaviours could be more widely advertised and other methods could be developed, including improved labelling of goods.

Recreation groups were noted as potential participants in marine litter reduction efforts including providing underwater litter surveys, the RYA's Green Blue education initiative for sailors and sailing clubs. Eco Schools has a compulsory unit on litter which might usefully be expanded to include marine litter and its impacts and as with other awareness raising campaigns, make better use of emotive images. An example of this might be the Local Coastal Partnership Litter DVD for marine litter as part of 5-14 yrs curriculum.

Public attitudes towards litter need to change, in line with the long running 'Keep Britain Tidy' campaign. While fines may work where enforcement is possible, improved use of information to contribute to seasonal campaigns, better coordination of Bag it and Bin it and links to other initiatives and sectors would help. Using shocking images (such as injuries caused to animals by plastic can connectors) and increasing awareness of marine litter issues in broader litter campaigns

Targeting of campaigns at specific beach user types and at specific beaches and making more use of LA beach managers (Fife is currently the only 'active' one) would be also effective. Lifeguards are often used for this purpose on busier beaches. Incentives for LA's to manage their beaches include Seaside awards and Blue flags which require them to write beach litter plans, including the provision of facilities and awareness raising (e.g. using MCS beachwatch statistics in April) and Internet campaigns.

Opportunities to make waste a resource should be explored by Zero Waste Scotland including giving waste a value (e.g. money for returned plastic bottles or supermarket loyalty points for returning containers?) which would help in changing attitudes towards litter. Use of other media could also be improved including more advertising in the cinema or on the internet, and use of shocking images of wildlife impacts ( KIMO have an excellent selection).

Other issues common across current approaches are lack of geographical coordination, a dependence on voluntary engagement, untargeted campaigns that only refer to generic solutions and the short lifespan of many initiatives resulting in a decline in motivation and remedial action over time. A variety of bodies lie behind such work including Local Authorities, the Marine Stewardship Council ( MSC) and the Group for Recycling in Argyll and Bute ( GRAB) Trust. The GRAB Trust currently receives funding from SNH, landfill tax and the Crown Estate to carry out awareness raising in schools and beach cleaning activities.

7.2.4 Litter facilities e.g. type and availability of bins

Public litter facilities need to be appropriate, for example lids on coastal bins to prevent seagulls from emptying them. Other options include simple recycling at these bins (common elsewhere e.g. Australia) and use clear simple signage on busier beaches, while on more remote coastline encourage take home only (removal of bins has resulted in a reduction in beach litter on Aberdeenshire beaches), an approach backed up by research by Forestry Commission and National Trust.

Similar issues apply at a different scale in harbours where the (lack of) infrastructure, education, legislation, litter charges, waste management systems and communications between ports all need to be considered. Vessels are required to report on levels of waste (to the harbour authority) but this currently only applies to boats over 500 tonnes - could this be lowered? There was a feeling Scotland is behind in terms of infrastructure for marinas and ports (e.g. recycling, pump-outs, oil etc) (even though it is a statutory to have the appropriate facilities) but this might be improved if covered by mooring fees. In all cases, the available facilities need to match the messages.

7.2.5 Harbour and marine issues

Harbour litter disposal facilities (including KIMO's 'Fishing for Litter') are limited to 17 ports across Scotland and some have port waste plans providing removal of shipping waste (often to landfill) with a mandatory charge for all but fishing boats. Aberdeen harbour and Forth Harbour boards have boats to collect port litter enabling them to remove litter brought from upstream and in by the tide. If new technologies such as recycled plastic booms currently being tested for litter recovery in Southern France are effective, then there is the possibility of expanding its use across Europe.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships ( MARPOL) for offloading waste needs further implementation and more enforcement, there being issues with ships transporting litter between harbours and reporting at landfall. Responsible fishing practices are encouraged by training (which should be provided prior to going to sea) through "Seafish" and there were suggestions that this might be linked in future to the leasing of fishing nets to encourage good net management as well as return and repair facilities.

Prosecutions under MARPOL are rare. Part of the regulation covers the fitting of new ships with waste management systems including the sorting of recyclables, while older boats are not required to retrofit these systems. Environmental standards ( ISO) for fishfarms are incorporated in environmental management agreements and it was suggested that such an approach could be applied in other sectors.

Containers used on boats should be stamped/marked to enable the source to be identified and the item returned, with the responsibility on companies to take back packaging

There are examples of environmental accreditation for fish farms that include the need for them to help to funding for cleanups. The Responsible Fishing Scheme (SeaFish) could include producer responsibility for nets in the fishing industry, including the introduction of waste/return schemes for when purchasing gear (e.g. nets). Fishing nets are often mended on the quayside leaving large amounts of material which should be cleared up before it enters the water, requiring the provision of facilities to allow this.

7.2.6 Riverine water inputs

Litter entering the sea from riverine sources is also of concern and regulation requires marine waters to be of Good Ecological Status ( GES) to 3km from the shore. Scottish Water is investing in this to achieve GES by 2015, including screening at shellfish and bathing water sites and WFD compliant river grills (on outside bends of rivers to trap litter). Linked to this is the need for improved management of Combined Sewerage Overflows ( CSOs) including mesh sizes and reducing inputs from household and other drainage as campaigned for by Surfers Against Sewage who raise awareness of the fact that "you'll see me again". CSO capacity in some cases is inadequate and spills are not restricted to storm events.

7.2.7 Private and NGO initiatives and lobbying

The Strategy needs to recognise that big companies often have the resources, and arguably the responsibility for driving marine litter related issues. For example the "Love where you Live" campaign launched in England and Wales in 2010with £200k of private funding, W.R.A.P. which is working to reduce waste and packaging and some key retailers are signed up to targets to reduce packaging and increase recycling. NGOs can also play a significant role in lobbying, awareness raising and volunteering.

7.2.8 Monitoring and data

Coastal litter monitoring is carried out in several different ways, the most well known being that which has been done alongside Beachwatch litter collections for the past 18 years. They conform to OSPAR guidelines but apply mainly to urban beaches. Although limited in geographical scope their guidelines are used by other groups. There will always be calls for more funding, staff time and better promotion, however a priority might be to manage and use existing regional figures (collected using comparable methods) and feed these back to MCS. There are OSPAR photo guidelines for different litter types, and helping to develop an EU wide approach would facilitate the use of standardised data. MCS data includes source, amounts, types, changes, and how to reduce it and should be actively used by the SG in this Strategy development to plan for marine litter reduction.

Examples from Scotland include Da Vor Redd Up which is an annual spring clean of Shetland's beaches and roadsides which is organised by the Shetland Amenity Trust, is now in its 21st year and is the largest community initiative of its kind in the UK. Each year up to 40% of the population gather about 50 tonnes of rubbish, but there is little data collection.

Scotland's National Spring Clean now happens over two months and provides data on the number of bags collected. More commercial sponsoring is needed for publicity and equipment (Wrigley's Gum has provided funding for permanent kits for individual groups). Information on the number of volunteers, number of events, location of events, organiser details, dates, times and the number of bags of rubbish (including recyclables when collected separately) are available on request. Some local Coastal Partnerships run cleans for team building, but data collection is piecemeal. Island tourist beaches are often cleaned by their communities, community cleans in Argyll and Bute ( GRAB Trust) make use of landfill tax funding while in other areas Local Authorities clean amenity beaches (Aberdeen City clean c. 60 tons/yr).

SEPA trawls for litter during routine survey work and data will be reported on a national database. The data collected by SEPA is in a format suitable for submission to ICES and will be combined with data from other UK marine monitoring organisations including Marine Scotland Science. Overall, monitoring not adequate and the SG will need to set up a programme for GES and MSFD compliance that links to voluntary OSPAR work. The Clean Safe seas Evidence Group of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy ( UKMMAS) has responsibility for ensuring UK marine monitoring Authorities collect litter data to provide information for the MSFD descriptor for Litter. Marine Scotland Science, MCS and SEPA are members of this group. Both SEPA and MSS are collecting litter data from routine trawling. SEPA is also collecting some beach litter data but resources are limited.

Broader points raised include questioning how much we need to expand monitoring efforts beyond existing processes, or make better use of what we have. There is also a need to consider more rural, inaccessible areas in Scotland which may collect litter, without having contributed to it - where are litter sinks and how can we reduce inputs to them? This would address the skewing of resources to bathing waters and more urban sites. Another interesting note relates to access to all of the data by universities who might be able to develop new conclusions from it, or suggest better recording methods. Finally, is there data that is recorded but not used or simple incentives to gather other fishing data?

7.2.9 Geographical distribution of marine litter

Maritime litter distribution is dependent on the source (hard to locate), currents and level of maritime activity. It shifts between regions (e.g. LAs) and littoral cells which serve to trap marine litter in discrete areas along Scotland's coast. Further out to sea shipping containers may be lost overboard, however this is an EU / UK issue. This included a Cornish example of pellet pollution from shipping freight containers lost overboard and the mention of "Operation Cleansweep" and a Voluntary Code of Practice for container shipping.

7.2.10 Policy coordination, governance and implementation

The Marine Litter Strategy offers an excellent opportunity to review of legislative options in Scotland and to arrange a less scatter-gun approach to the issue and needs to consider monitoring requirements, GES, funding and how to coordinate and use marine litter data. This will involve consideration of scale, including coordination between local and national scales and different local authority levels of engagement. Management will need to be location specific (rural beaches, busier beaches etc.), and the establishment of regional partnerships / ICZM to tackle litter management should be promoted. Local responses to acute littering issues might be addressed through the Scottish Outdoor Access Code by Local Outdoor Access Forums since littering does not constitute 'responsible access'.

The maritime industries are required by the Ports Directive to keep a 'rubbish log' but these, like other marine measures are very difficult to police and the incentive to cast overboard is high. It was suggested that every boat should be charged a fee across the board, but that a combined carrot and stick approach would be most effective. Very high requirement for evidence to prosecute

Enforcement issues also arise on land where penalties are rarely applied, which may reflect a deficiency in the legislation itself (e.g. Local Government Act 2003, Environment Protection Act). Fly-tipping is an issue that might be reduced by increasing the likelihood of being prosecuted, perhaps by improving community involvement and their communication links with local police. Scottish Law requires a high burden of proof so surveillance and enforcement is still important. Courts could be encouraged to use community service orders to enable a rapid process from crime to clean-up. Enforcement of litter schemes should be easier on high use beaches using targeted fixed penalties and peer pressure - the locals are the enforcers. Outright bans on activities are rare, although some Local Authorities have banned balloon races and it was felt that this should be applied universally.

Other policy tools that should be linked to the Marine Litter Act include the Climate Change Act (through efficiency gains) and trading standards legislation. Clear guidelines from the plastics industry relating to what is biodegradable etc. should be made available and should be used to address labelling issues in partnership with the SG/ UK Government.

SOLAS / IMO / UK / Merchant Shipping Act and Marine Conservation Act, recent review Annex 5 of MARPOL and its extension to fishing vessels, the Marine Act feeding into secondary legislation including OSPAR constitute a range of related policy tools.

Sharing good practice between Scottish regions, sectoral approaches and overseas experience should be an ongoing process, building on existing networks of expertise. Any Marine Litter Strategy should encourage this.


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