Marine Litter (EO 10)

Common Indicator 22: Trends in the amount of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines (including analysis of its composition, spatial distribution and, where possible, source)

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
Mediterranean assessment based on existing regional and national surveys, research and publications and as appropriate data from national monitoring programmes of the Contracting Parties.
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
1-Land and Sea Based Pollution
Ecological Objective:
Ecological Objective 10 (EO10): Marine and coastal litter do not adversely affect the coastal and marine environment.
IMAP Common Indicator:
Common Indicator 22 (CI22): Trends in the amount of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines (including analysis of its composition, spatial distribution and, where possible, source).
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Number/amount of marine litter items on the coastline do not have negative impacts on human health, marine life and ecosystem services  

GES Targets:

  • State: Decreasing trend in the number of/amount of marine litter (items) deposited on the coast



Much of what we know on the presence of marine litter (abundance, distribution, origin) in the marine and coastal environment comes from information collected on marine litter stranded on beaches (Ryan et al., 2009). Beach marine litter has drawn a lot of attention and numerous surveys and corresponding campaigns have been organized. However, a comparison among all these different studies is made difficult as the majority of these studies use different sampling protocols, techniques and methods. As in all marine compartments, plastics are predominant among the collected marine litter items found stranded on beaches. Several NGOs have been very active in tackling the problem, increasing the environmental awareness of the citizens, along with engaging them in marine litter related surveys, events and actions. Most of the available information on beach marine litter for the Mediterranean Sea comes from standing-stock surveys.

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Assessment methods

The current assessment has been based on recent key assessments, reports and publications by UN Environment/MAP, and other projects and initiatives. The UN Environment/MAP 2015 Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean report has been used as the main source for this indicator assessment factsheet.

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Results and Status, including trends

It is currently difficult to assess the impact of marine litter on beaches due to the limited spatial availability of data and information in the Mediterranean (with most data found on northern shores), and also because of lack incomparability between data due to the differing methodologies used. Mediterranean NGOs have significantly contributed in providing data and information on the temporal and spatial distribution of marine litter found stranded on beaches through beach clean-up campaigns and dedicated monitoring surveys but many of these are still not comparable to give a complete picture at regional level. Also, little is known on the accumulation and loading rates and correspondingly stranding fluxes and rates are difficult to assess.

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Knowing the amounts of marine litter found stranded on beaches can help us assess the potential harm to the environment and would also enhance our knowledge on sources (JRC, 2013).Currently there is limited data and great spatial variability on the amounts and composition of marine litter reflecting the different characteristics along the shorelines of the Mediterranean.

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Key messages

  • Information on beach marine litter exists but the picture is still fragmented and is geographically restricted to the northern part of the Mediterranean.
  • Plastics are the major components with cigarette butts, food wrappers and plastic bags being the top marine litter items.

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References included in the UN Environment/MAP (2015). Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean 2015. UN Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan. ISBN: 978-92-807-3564-2.

Galgani, F., Hanke, G., Werner, S., De Vrees, L. (2013). Marine litter within the European marine strategy framework directive. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 70 (6): 1055-1064.

Interwies E., Görlitz S., Stöfen A., Cools J., Van Breusegem W., Werner S., L. de Vrees (2013) Issue Paper to the "International Conference on Prevention and Management of Marine Litter in European Seas", Final Version, 16th May 2013 (, 111 pages.

JRC (2013). Guidance on Monitoring of Marine Litter in European Seas.

Martinez-Ribes L., Basterretxea G., Palmer M., J.Tintore (2007). Origin and abundance of beach debris in the Balearic Islands. Sci. Mar. 71: 305–314.

Ocean conservancy /International Coastal Cleanup (ICC, 2014), (

Oko institut (G.Mehlhart & M. Blepp, 2012) Study on Land sourced Litter in the Marine Environment. Review of sources and literature Olko Institut report, 128 pages

UNEP (2009), Marine Litter A Global Challenge, Nairobi: UNEP. 232 pp.

UNEP (2011) Assessment of the status of marine Litter in the Mediterranean Sea. UNEP(DEPI)/MED WG.357/Inf.4 12 April 2011, 55 pages

UNEP (2013) Regional Plan on Marine litter Management in the Mediterranean in the Framework of Article 15 of the Land Based Sources Protocol (Decision IG.21/7). 18th Meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention.

Additional references

Brouwer R., Hadzhiyska D., Ioakeimidis C., Ouderdorp H. (2017). The social costs for marine litter along the European coasts. Ocean & Coastal Management 138: 38-49.

Ghermandi, A., Nunes, P.A.L.D. (2013). A global map of coastal recreation values: results from a spatially explicit meta-analysis. Ecol. Econ. 86: 1-15.

González,  D.,  Hanke,G.,  Tweehuysen,  G.,  Bellert,  B.,  Holzhauer,  M.,  Palatinus,  A.,  Hohenblum,  P., and Oosterbaan, L. 2016. Riverine Litter Monitoring - Options and Recommendations. MSFD GES TG Marine Litter Thematic Report; JRC Technical Report; EUR 28307; doi:10.2788/461233

JRC, 2016. Marine beach litter in Europe – Top Items. A short summary. JRC Technical Reports, JRC 103929.

Ryan P.G., Moore C.J., van Franeker J.A., Moloney C.L. (2009). Monitoring the abundance of plastic debris in the marine environment. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364, 1999–2012 (doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0207).

Veiga, J.M., Fleet, D., Kinsey, S., Nilsson, P., Vlachogianni, T., Werner, S., Galgani, F., Thompson, R.C., Dagevos, J., Gago, J., Sobral, P. and Cronin, R.; 2016; Identifying Sources of Marine Litter. MSFD GES TG Marine Litter Thematic Report; JRC Technical Report; EUR 28309; doi:10.2788/018068

Vlachogianni, Th., Zeri, Ch., Ronchi, F., Fortibuoni, T., Anastasopoulou, A., 2017. Marine Litter Assessment in the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. IPA-Adriatic DeFishGear Project, MIO-ECSDE, HCMR and ISPRA. pp. 180 (ISBN: 978-960-6793-25-7)