Launch of the first European-wide survey on marine litter

© Global Garbage Brasil

© Global Garbage Brasil

Scientists are launching a Europe-wide survey which aims to provide the first detailed insight into people’s perceptions of marine litter.

The survey, being conducted by Plymouth University, will assess how people’s attitudes towards the impacts and the potential solutions to this growing environmental problem vary between countries and between those who manufacture, sell, use or dispose of the numerous items which can become marine litter.

It is being led by Professor Richard Thompson, from the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, and Dr Sabine Pahl and Bonny Hartley from the University’s School of Psychology.

Professor Thompson said: “We know marine litter harms a wide range of marine life including commercially important species, many of which are critically endangered. This debris presents a hazard to mariners and is exceptionally costly to clean up. Yet many of the items we commonly find as marine debris, such as packaging, have no reason to accumulate in the sea. This survey provides an exciting opportunity to help understand the underlying causes and identify potential solutions to this major environmental problem.’’

Marine litter refers to persistent, manufactured or processed solid materials that are discarded, disposed of, or abandoned on the coast and in the sea.

The purpose of the survey is to understand what people’s opinions are about this environmental issue, for example, what they think about types of litter found in the sea, where it comes from, what the consequences are, and who is responsible.

Bonny Hartley said: “Marine litter is a societal issue in which people play a crucial role through their decisions and behaviours. It affects visitors to beaches, it is caused by the behaviour of consumers, retailers and a range of other stakeholders and it can only be solved by people working together. Understanding current Europe-wide attitudes and perceptions of the problem is a crucial step in developing solutions that are feasible and accepted by society.”

The survey will compare people’s views in 16 countries across the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean, Baltic and Black Sea regions. It will target different sectors of society, including recreational and commercial users of the coast and sea, environmental groups, educators, government and policy makers, the media, waste management sectors, and designers, manufacturers and retailers of items that can potentially become marine litter.

It is part of a three-year, €4.5 Million EU funded project called MARLISCO, and the overall goal is to raise societal awareness of the problems and potential solutions relating to the accumulation of marine litter, in order to inspire changes in people’s attitudes and behaviours towards this environmental issue.

The survey takes about 15 minutes and all information is anonymous and confidential. To take part, visit

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