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The Commission published a Commission Staff Working Document with an overview of relevant EU legislation, policies and strategies that touch on this problem.  The document also includes an indication of on-going and future initiatives in this area.
Environment is a key component of the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Marine Directive), adopted in 2008.
The main goal of the Marine Directive is to achieve "Good Environmental Status" (GES) of all marine waters of the European Union by 2020. The decision under Article 9(3) MSFD on criteria of good environmental status addresses marine litter in descriptor 10 and aims at achieving that "Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment".
The success of the Marine Directive depends largely on the effective integration of marine environmental concerns in EU legislation and policies. The Marine Directive aims to achieve this by providing a long-term policy view of the seas and enhanced cooperation in marine regions and internationally.
As a follow up to the Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status (GES) of marine waters (Commission Decision 2010/477/EU), the Marine Directors requested the Directorate-General for the Environment (DG ENV) in 2010 to establish a technical subgroup under the Working Group on GES (WG GES) in relation to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC (MSFD) for further development of Descriptor 10 Marine Litter. In 2011 the TSG compiled a report with recommendations regarding Descriptor 10 (Marine Litter).
Finally, in 2013 the TSG produced "A guidance document within the Common Implementation Strategy for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive MSFD Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter 2013. Guidance on Monitoring of Marine Litter in European Seas"

Sharing knowlegde

The JRC has set up the MSFD Competence Centre (MCC) to help EU countries achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ of their marine waters by 2020, the main aim of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). In achieving this aim, the MSFD seeks to protect the fragile balance of marine ecosystems, upon which many economic and social activities such as fishing or tourism depend.

The MCC acts as a science-policy interface, facilitating cooperation and information exchange for the successful implementation of the Directive.

The specific section regarding D10 marine litter can be found here.

Furthermore, the COLUMBUS project intends to capitalise on the European Commission’s significant investment in marine and maritime research by ensuring accessibility and uptake of research Knowledge Outputs by end-users: policy, industry, science and wider society. COLUMBUS ensures measurable value creation from research investments contributing to sustainable Blue Growth within the timeframe of the project.

Several CleanSea “exploitable results” are available on CORDIS website.


The European Commission commissioned 3 Pilot Projects (studies) on marine litter. As the studies are closely linked, a common chapter has been developed, integrating the respective results.
The results of the studies are now available here:

The European Commission is currently running a Pilot Project "Removal of marine litter from Europe's four regional seas" (MARELITT). Furthermore, it has published a report that supports a quantitative headline reduction target for marine litter in Europe, as called for in the 7th Environment Action Programme. The study proposes “a 30% reduction of the number of items of the top 10 litter categories found on the beach by 2020, compared to 2015” and this figure has been included in the EC’s Communication “Towards a Circular Economy”.

Besides CleanSea, other EU funded projects related to marine litter are:

FP7 MARLISCO. Marine Litter in European Seas - Social Awareness and Co-Responsibility

FP7 KnowSeas. Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe's Seas

FP7 PERSEUS. Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research for the Southern European Seas

FP7 DEVOTES. DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status

FP7 MedSeA. European Mediterranean Sea Acidification in a changing climate

FP7 BioClean. Biotechnological solutions for the degradation of synthetic polymeric materials

FP7 ECSAFESEAFOOD. Priority environmental contaminants in seafood: safety assessment, impact and public perception

FP7 WASTEKIT. Waste management focusing on knowledge and integration to create transnational economic development

FP7  MERMAID. Marine Environmental targets linked to Regional Management schemes based on Indicators Developed for the Mediterranean

FP7 CSA Oceans. Facilitating implementation of Joint Program Initiative (JPI) Oceans

Interreg MICRO. MicroPlastics

Interreg MARLIN. Baltic Marine Litter Project

ENPI-CBC MED MED-JELLYRISK. Integrated monitoring of jellyfish outbreaks  under anthropogenic and climatic impacts in the Mediterranean sea: trophic and  socio-economic risks

LIFE+ GHOST project - studying impacts of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gears (ALDFG) on marine biodiversity in Adriatic Sea

LIFE+ MERMAIDS. Mitigation of microplastics impact caused by textile washing processes

Furthermore, the European Commission published the brochure The Ocean of Tomorrow Projects (2010-2013). Joint Research Forces to Meet Challenges in Ocean Management, where CleanSea and other FP7 projects are described.

More information
*Source: DG Environment, EC.
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