Results from the Marine Litter workshop at the #EMD2019!

(Marine Litter team from left to right: Maris Stulgis, DG MARE; Margherita Zorgno, AQUA-LIT project; Pieter J.H. Van Beukering, CLAIM project; Iliyana Pensoft, CLAIM project; Ivana Lukic, AQUA-LIT project; Mariana Mata Lara, AQUA-LIT project; Yolanda Schmal, CPMR-North Sea Commission; Hanna Dijkstra, CLAIM project; DIna M. Aspen, Circular Ocean and Blue Circular Economy projects; and Ramiro Neves, Clean Atlantic project).


Marine Litter: Gaps, barriers, solutions & innovation workshop

As part of the European Maritime Day 2019 held last May 16-17th at the Congress Centre Lisboa in Portugal, AQUA-LIT and CLAIM projects organized a workshop aiming at presenting, showcasing and co-defining through a role game with participants, the existing gaps, barriers, potential solutions, and business and innovation opportunities, for the prevention & reduction, mapping & quantification, recovery and transformation of marine litter.


With an audience of about 100 participants, our invited speakers and facilitators from the projects Circular Ocean, Blue Circular Economy and Clean Atlantic, as well as the CPMR North Sea Commission, presented what has been done so far on each of this angles of marine littering, and later lead the dynamic and stakeholder role game. 


Given the highly interesting discussions that were held during the workshop, we considered important to make the results from available the four groups for those who were not able to attend or watch the live streaming in our Twitter account




  1. How can regions be more effective in the prevention and reduction of marine litter?
  • Thinking as fisheries/aquaculture industry we want regions to create infrastructure close to the harbors or aquaculture facilities to recycle or reutilize litter
  • Subsidize the industry if new technologies are available to race lost fishing gear or use materials like bio based products that might be more expensive to be adopted by the industry
  • Involve education -work with schools and try to change consumption behavior -- Create awareness and get people together
  • A common approach across borders
    1. Unified group tender and procurement
    2. Unifying regulation and recycling procedures
    3. Agree on a common approach for waste separation across borders


  1. What regional measures have the most influence on reducing marine litter?
  • Adopt measures to reduce single-use plastics and adopt technologies like CLAIM booms
  • Regulate use of plastics
    1. Mandatory bio bags instead of regular plastic bags
  • Awareness for people and focus on education can help policymakers
  • Need safe water from the tap so that people don’t have to buy plastic water bottles


  1. What innovative ideas or business models should be developed?
  • New bio based products for fishing gear
  • Technologies for tracing lost fishing gear
  • Requirements to test and upscale new technologies and devices by involving appropriate stakeholders and using strategic dissemination
  • Subsidize fishing companies to use better fishing gear



Need for political will

  • Awareness isn’t enough! Need incentives as well

  • Regulations are needed for all ideas and innovations to be successful

  • Many small solutions can only work once political will can make large scale change

Regional tenders for waste collection

  • Economies of scale

  • Waste is not stopped by borders

  • Small municipalities have their own waste management, but we need to harmonize this to improve the management and recycling capacity
  • We need unity between North and South
  • A common approach across borders – unified group tender and procurement
  • Will be more effective! – regions can act as a cooperation platform

Polluter (and consumer) pays

  • People have bad habits

  • Recycling can be thought of as inconvenient

    • Make sorting as easy as possible
  • What if you pay according to the garbage you produce?
    • Or pay for plastic bags?
    • Enlist the support of communities and regions to enforce

Changing consumer attitudes

  • Packaging industry and marketing makes us think we need individually wrapped vegetables (for example)

    • How can we fight with the lobby of plastic industry? They are powerful

  • Can we regulate so that biodegradable plastics are mandatory?
  • Consumers need to ask for alternatives
  • Reduce overpackaging

Regions as potential for upscaling

  • Take successful initiatives and implement across regions

  • Common funding to prevent competition quarrels

  • Can take initiative across regions and up to EU level



1. Which other monitoring schemes can be implemented that are more cost efficient?

  • Boost and implement robotic and technology for data collection. International collaboration is needed. EU and national grant are needed to boost the industry and create a real market of it.
  • Fishermen can help in data collection. They can use the technologies (robotic, video, etc.) for data collection.
  • Research community needs to create guidelines on data collection that can be accepted on EU level.
  • Data should be open source. Citizen/scientists could enter data in a big platform.
  • An important role can be played by schools: monitoring and data collection, increasing awareness.
  • Providing R&D for new research models and monitoring system to improve the current monitoring system.

2. What is the role of each stakeholder and how their joint effort could help to fulfil gaps?

  • Tourism operator can be incentivised by the government for data collection activities. Citizens play an important role, as well school (as mentioned above).

3. Are there innovative solutions for integration of different monitoring methodology and are there business opportunities for it?

  • Citizen initiatives can bring data and also increase awareness. They can follow guidelines in data collection. A tax refund system can be implemented to incentivise litter collection combined with data. Collective point where to place collected litter by citizens, with data entry and tax refund system in place (for incentivise collection of litter and data).
  • Combine the use of satellite data and modelling with drone inspection. Where satellite and modelling show higher concentration, drones could play the role of quantifying these litter (quantification of litter is not possible with the only the use of modelling and satellite data).
  • New vessels with sensor (e.g. sonar) that could monitor all the time without additional cost.




  1. What are the necessary infrastructure and processes to support such a recovery scheme, and (2) how may stakeholders influence or be influenced from it?

Gear producers

  • Should aim to move away from blended materials – redesign gear for simple dismantling, separation and sorting
  • Incentives to change gear design: For instance, bad gear has to pay more

Fishing and aquaculture companies

  • Ensure some form of incentive to contribute: Build on culture, image, pride
  • Could achieve higher profits because more people buy seafood products if the industry shows compliance and stewardship
  • Should be incentivized to prevent mix of materials prior to delivering at port
  • Need procedures to be as simple as possible (time, resources)
  • Needs safe storage and waste management plans
  • Legislation must not penalize too strongly, e.g incentivizing unsafe gear handling and retrieval (sometimes gear has to be cut for safety reasons).


  • Reception facilities needed – dedicated areas to store and handle gear
  • Distribution network between fishing – port – waste processing
  • Green port solutions


  • Need to create legislative framework both on a national and regional scale level
  • Need to force ports to play a role in the scheme
  • Need to incentivize gear design changes
  • Framework on resources fee at first buy and reception – incentivize that gear is actually recovered


  • Information and communication on volume and location – how much can be picked up where?
  • Transportation should be environmentally friendly

Waste recyclers

  • Research and innovation needed to enable recycling.
  • Clarification of which products could be suitable for the market
  • Needs information to set up an appropriate recycling system – perhaps integrate this into recycling of other waste plastic streams


  1. Are there any business opportunities in such a scheme from the perspective of stakeholders?

Gear design:

Simple and elegant solutions that maintain gear integrity and performance while at the same being easy to dismantle and handle during the end of life processes

Gear suppliers:

Could rent out gear instead of selling it. This creates strong incentives for processes and infrastructure similar to an EPR scheme.


Recyclate creates a lot of new business opportunities, e.g. products made either partially or wholly from recycled gear material


To implement the scheme, there are a lot of business opportunities for consultants with the expertise to help build and maintain the scheme

Information Technology Systems:

To implement the scheme, it is necessary to share information on volumes, locations, gear ownership, and status. IT solutions must be developed/adapted for them to implement and enforce the EPR.




 Stronger political commitment

  • The stick is not big enough – we need stricter regulations especially at the EU level to provide guidance to the whole transformation

  • The carrot the government should also provide incentives for good behavior

  • Keeping in mind that corruption is looming, the systems are very vulnerable for corruption which would kill the whole system
    • The system needs to be managed well

Image of plastics

  • There is a tendency to say that everything that is plastic is bad, but we need to recognize that plastic still play an important role they just need to be managed well
  • Mainstreaming of recycled – it is nice to market ‘green’ or ‘ocean’ plastic, but this is not a scalable design
  • Ultimately, recycled and ocean plastic should be integrated in the regular recycling and production streams
    • The bulk of the problem will not be managed
    • Ocean plastic should be integrated in the normal recycled chain (very small volume)
    • Large scale recycling is key – we need to be able to integrate ocean plastic within existing recycling and waste management structures

Entrepreneurial perspective

  • We need to create the right enabling conditions such as
    • Stable entrepreneurial environment
      • Not changing policies 2-3 years but have long term ‘rules of the game’ defined
      • So once they invest, they are secure knowing they will get their returns
  • Small startups are competing with large corporates and they may need additional support such as
    • Networks
    • Cheap funding
    • Subsidies
  • Incubators could play an important role by providing access to the above needs

Economies of scale

  • Especially in aquaculture, this is a relatively small industry and without scale businesses will not be cost effectiveness.
  • Aquaculture in the EU is relatively small and scattered and this calls for regional collaboration.

Geotagging fishing nets

  • A way to capture ghost fishing and ensure secure supply


  • Uniform EU regulations could improve port management
  • Different ports have different rules and this is complicating the issue especially for fishing and transport industries


  • This is key for any regulation to be successful
  • Critical prerequisite
  • Way to know if the system/regulation is working
  • Are programs ultimately reducing environmental impact?

Creation of synergies

  • Synergies between the different processes and business models that concern aquaculture, recycling, and social work.


Thank you to all the committed audience who were so involved and who also made us have a blast! We hope you liked your bamboo straw!


If you would like to see the full posters that each group used, where besides the scenario, some more context was given, as well as the stakeholder roles to play, please see the attachment below: