About Sea Waste

About Sea Waste

Environmental pollution is one of the biggest ecological problems of today. Pollution involves the direct or indirect introduction of substance or energy into the environment that causes or may cause adverse effects on the plant and animal world and endangers human health. That is why the environmental pollution and the need to prevent it, in order to preserve ecosystems and nature in their original forms, is a hot topic at the moment.

However, so far, land-based pollution has been solved, as ocean and sea have been considered as unlimited areas that can handle large amounts of waste without significant negative consequences. Nevertheless, after the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, marine litter or pollution is increasingly recognized as a serious environmental problem with significant economic, social, health and cultural impacts that cannot be efficiently addressed within national boundaries but needs to be addressed globally, on European, regional and sub regional levels.

Marine litter can be found in all the world's seas and oceans and is defined as any permanent, produced or processed solid material that is not of natural origin, but has been produced, used and rejected by man either directly into the sea or on land and later entered the sea by river, drainage, sewerage or wind. Marine litter appears as floating waste on the surface of the sea, beneath its surface, deposited on the seabed and flooded on the shore, and its majority (80%) comes from the land. 

Land waste sources are:

  • uncontrolled or poorly managed landfills
  • drains and sewers
  • rivers by which waste comes from the interior
  • ispiranje kišama odnosno ispuhivanje s obala za vrijeme oluja i nevremena te
  • tourist activities.

The rest of the waste comes from so-called sea resources:

  • The rest of the waste comes from so-called sea resources:
  • Waste generated as a result of activities in fisheries and maricultural
  • Waste from oil and gas platforms and again
  • Tourist activities.

Solid waste entering the sea is of a diverse origin, use, composition, size, shape, durability, ecological 'acceptability' and other, and can be categorized into plastics, metal, glass, rubber, wood and paper. All of this has been degraded in seas for many years and ultimately affects marine organisms through entanglement and entering the digestive tract, poses a risk to human health, creates interference with activities at sea and coast and reduces the quality of seawater.

Nevertheless, the main problem is plastic waste that especially loads the sea because it is highly resistant and degrades extremely slowly. Due to physical, biological and chemical processes over time, the structural integrity of plastic waste is reduced and fragmentation results in small microplastic particles. Marine organisms can replace these particles with food, which can lead to gastrointestinal and other injuries, and since the chemical substances contained in the microplastic particles accumulate in the food chain, eventually they can come to people. The amount and the plastic waste at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea is among the highest in Europe, after the northeaster part of the Mediterranean and Celtic Sea (Galgani et al., 2000). The waste comes from about four million people living alongside its shores, and this number is increased by almost six times during the tourist season (Marcheti and others, 1989; Picer, 2000). Apart from ecological, marine litter has an important socio-economic impact that affects coastal communities as the clean coast is of crucial importance for tourism. On the beaches and sea bottom of the coastal area of Croatia, the waste from the sea is present in quantities that are not negligible. A major problem in Croatia is waste brought by sea currents and wind from neighbouring Adriatic countries, especially during the extremely adverse meteorological and hydrological conditions. Such waste in the South Adriatic area can account for almost 90% of the total quantity (Kwokal and Štefanović, 2009, 2011).

The regional approach to tackling this pollution is a step towards success, because the problems of marine litter go beyond the national boundaries.  

 The Republic of Croatia is obliged to fulfil the obligations arising from a series of international conventions and other legal acts (ODMS of the European Parliament and Council, Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on Criteria and methodological standards on good condition of the marine environment, Directive 2000/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, the MARPOL Convention and its Annex V, the London Convention and its Protocol, the Barcelona Convention and its LBS Protocol, the Dumping Protocol and the Emergency Protocol, and the Regional Marine Management Plan in the Mediterranean).

The national legal framework for marine litter includes the Maritime Code, the Law on Sustainable Waste Management, the Maritime Law and Sea Ports, the Decree on the Conditions to be met by ports, the Decree on Arrangement and Protection of the Protected Coastal Sea, the Decree on Drafting and Implementing Management Strategy Documents of the marine environment and the coastal area as well as several rules.

However, marine litter is not a problem that can be solved only with legislation, law enforcement, beach cleaning and technical solutions. It is also a cultural problem and efforts are needed in order to achieve a change in behaviour, management approach, education and involvement of all sectors.

Although the issue of marine litter has been present for a long time, the Republic of Croatia's knowledge about this issue is still very scarce. The main disadvantages in understanding are the absence of a sufficient database on the quantities, composition and trends of marine litter, poor understanding of oceanographic and climate processes that affect its distribution and retention in the marine environment and insufficient knowledge of the “life” of marine litter after entering the sea. There is currently no systematic collection and recording of data related to marine litter in the Republic of Croatia, nor is there a strategic document / legal act dealing solely with this issue. Activities related to the prevention of marine litter are implemented through the application of existing legal framework and strategic documents related to waste management. Marine litter collection activities are mainly carried out on beaches before and during the tourist season, on the initiative of local self-government units, counties or concessions, and individual actions of NGO’s.
According to the Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Croatia, marine litter is defined as a special categorie of waste and one of the objectives of waste management by 2022 is to improve the management system for special categories of waste, precisely to establish a marine litter management system.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to take the following measures:

  • identify the sites and sources of marine litter and the location of accumulated marine litter at sea bottom;
  • establish a system for the prevention, collection and disposal of marine litter, as an integral part of the waste management system in the Republic of Croatia;
  • collect and dispose of marine litter in an intervention;
  • establish cooperation with neighbouring countries or other countries related to marine litter pollution.

When editing the management system for special categories of waste, special attention has to be paid to prevention of the completion of waste in the sea. The purpose of the marine litter management system is to ensure:

  • the prevention of waste disposal in the marine environment or waste management that enables waste to be found in the marine environment and the coastal area that is in direct contact with the sea
  • removing as much as possible existing quantities of marine litter in the marine environment (sea surface, water column or sea bottom) and the coastal area that is in direct contact with the sea using environmentally acceptable methods.

The Law on Sustainable Waste Management stipulates that the local communal service authority is in charge for the removal of decommissioned waste into the environment. However, the specific jurisdiction for marine litter located on the sea surface, the seawater column and the seabed are insufficiently regulated. Marine litter management measures include ensuring the avoidance and reduction of cross-border pollution of the Adriatic Sea through the establishment of appropriate cross-border cooperation and proper management of the waste on the land, ensuring that this waste does not reach the sea.

However, it has been mentioned that marine litter issues cannot be solved within national boundaries, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed globally. Thus, in 2008, the European Union adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56 / EC), which aims to establish a common approach and objectives for the prevention, protection and preservation of the marine environment against harmful human activities and requires from the EU countries the development of strategies in order to achieve a 'good state of the environment' by 2020.

Strategies that extend in six-year cycles should include measures that need to be implemented in order to protect the marine ecosystem and ensure that marine-related economic activities are sustainable. In order to ensure a 'good state of the environment' it is necessary for EU countries to cooperate with their neighbours in the marine regions (Northeast Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean and Black Sea) when defining and implementing their sea strategies, within which the state of the marine environment as well as the impact of human activity should be identify. Further, they have to identify what is 'a good state of the environment' for their marine waters, to determine the environmental goals, and on that basis to develop monitoring programs and to prepare programs of measures.

In addition, the Directive contains a set of 'qualitative descriptors' to be considered by EU countries when determining their strategies and to achieve a good environmental condition of their waters. 

They include:

  • maintaining biodiversity
  • inclusion in sustainable fishing
  • preservation of the sea bottom and
  • be aware of marine litter and pollutants.

The Directive is based on existing EU legislation and includes specific elements of the marine environment not listed in their policies, such as the WFD and the Habitats and Birds Directive.

Another important framework is the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, which was adopted at the 18th regular meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols (Barcelona Convention; December 2013), and entered into force on 8 July 2014. The Contracting Parties (21 Mediterranean countries and the EU) have agreed to take the necessary financial, legal and administrative measures and other measures to ensure the implementation of this Regional Plan. The accepted Regional Plan is the first program in the world that has the legal obligation to name the global interest through concrete actions at the regional and national level. The Regional Plan became legally binding for all contracting parties on July 8, 2014, which means for Croatia as well. UN Environment Assembly UNEP (2014) welcomed the acceptance of the Regional Plan by the Contracting Parties.


According to the Law on Sustainable Waste Management (CRO), marine litter is waste in the marine environment and coastal area that are in direct contact with the sea, that is generated by human activities on land or sea and is located on the sea surface, in the water column, and at the seabed or flooded.

Marine litter is a major problem for the environment, the economy, human health and environmental aesthetics. It represents a complex and multidimensional challenge with significant implications for the marine and coastal area and human activity around the world.

The effects of marine litter are both cultural and multi-sectoral and are primarily based on:

  • poor practice of waste management, with emphasis on landfill management
  • lack of infrastructure
  • various human activities
  • inadequate public understanding
  • lack of appropriate legal and enforcement systems and
  • lack of financial resources.

Utjecaj morskog otpada je vrlo širok sa značajem koji varira u odnosu na svjetsku regiju u skladu sa kulturološkim i društveno – ekonomskim normama. 

The impact of marine litter is wide and includes:

  • aesthetic and influence on tourism
  • impact on human security and health
  • impact on fishing activity (professional and sport / amateur)
  • impact on species and habitats
  • the economic effects associated with previous (cleansing, loss of profits ...) that are significant, but difficult to determine.

It is estimated that 80% of marine litter comes from landfills and land activities, while about 20% of waste ends in the sea as a result of (irresponsible) maritime traffic and fisheries.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), only 15% of the marine litter floats on the sea surface; additional 15% remains in the water column, and 70% is at the sea bottom.

The main categories of waste in the sea are: plastic/plastomer of various types (80 95%) , rubber, metal, glass, clothing, wood and paper. On the other side, containers for various types of liquids (PP, PE and PET) and styrofoam (PS) prevail. The most common waste origin countries in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea are Albania (40-70%), Italy (20-30%), Greece and Montenegro (5-10%) and Croatia (less than 5%) .

Marine litter is a problem that crosses borders: once it enters the sea, it does not belong to anyone and this fact makes marine litter management difficult and dependent on good regional and international co-operation. Bulbous waste at the bottom destroys the habitat of many organisms, releases various heavy metals, prevents oxygen from reaching algae, plants, sedimentary animals and anoxia. In addition, waste causes spread of invasive and pathogenic organisms.

There is no systematic collection or recording of collected marine litter in Croatia. A big problem is the waste carried by sea currents.

REducing and Preventing, an integrated Approach to Marine Litter Management in the Adriatic Sea

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