Marine litter is one of the fastest growing threats to the marine environment. In a single year, millions tons of litter, mainly plastic, end up in the oceans and seas due to human activities. The problem is complex as one plastic item may fragment into millions of microscopic particles with very slow rates of biodegradation, making their removal an extremely difficult task. The continued accumulation of these persistent materials poses a significant risk to marine life, human health and the economy, and calls for urgent actions. The Black Sea is especially at risk from marine litter and plastic pollution because of the high river discharge from several countries into this semi-enclosed basin. The problem in the region needs to be tackled on several fronts including regional initiatives, legally binding directives, international cooperation, education programmes and evidence-based scientific knowledge. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have addressed the concern in relation to marine litter and its potential effects on Black Sea ecosystem. However, there is still a need to fully understand the environmental, public health and socio-economic impacts of plastics in the region
Black Sea is a typical semi-enclosed sea, very sensitive to contamination. It’s extremely slow replenishment of water, limited vertical intermixing and dynamic surface circulation in combination with high anthropogenic pressure from river and canal discharges, navigation, fishery, waste dumps near the coast, tourism and recreation activities, etc., favour marine litter pollution both in the entire basin and its particular areas. To quantify the problem and take measures to reduce marine litter loading within the Black Sea basin, several surveys have been conducted during the last years to assess coastal littering.
Marine litter can indeed cause serious economic damage: losses for coastal communities, tourism, shipping and fishing. Taking into account its accumulation and dissemination, marine litter may be one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the world’s oceans.
Marine litter consists of various materials including for example glass, metal, plastics, ceramics, rubber, paper and machined wood. The largest proportion of all marine litter is plastics, accounting for up to 95 % of all debris in some areas. The continuously increasing global production of plastics and poor management practices has led to their accumulation in the oceans, and since their degradation may last even hundreds of years they are really persistent in the marine environment. Even though further accumulation of plastic litter into the ocean could be prevented, degradation of the litter already present in the marine environment may last a lifetime.
Information on the characterization, quantification, and location of the amounts of marine litter also represents the background for the development of the management strategies to reduce marine litter and to verify their effectiveness.
Because a large part of marine litter is consumer waste, educating people on its effects could significantly reduce the waste going into the sea, according to several studies. Shops should also take on some of the responsibility, for example making it easier for customers to return bottles or phasing out single-use plastic bags. The waste management industry also has a part to play in more effectively collecting and processing litter which would otherwise end up in the sea.
Author: Fatma Sezen Katrancı – Of Chamber of Agriculture – Trapzon, Turkey