About Marine Litter

Plastic Litter on beach at Port Logan

Marine litter is human created waste that has either been deliberately discarded, accidently lost, or transported by winds and rivers, into the sea and on beaches.  Marine litter is not just unsightly but can be dangerous too.  It can cause harm to public health and injury to our marine and coastal wildlife.

Marine litter is a global problem with millions of tonnes of litter ending up in the world’s oceans every year.

The main sources of marine litter are:

From land-based activities:

– land-fills

– rivers and floodwaters

– industrial outfalls

– discharge from storm water drains

– untreated sewerage

– littering of beaches, coastal areas

From marine based activities:

– fishing industry

– shipping (eg. transport, tourism, fishing)

– offshore mining and extraction

– illegal dumping at sea

– discarded fishing gear’  (Source: UNEP, KIMO)

The problem of disposing of fishing related litter is being addressed through the Fishing for Litter Project.

At a European level the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) sets the framework for Member States to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020 for their marine waters.  There are 11 descriptors to consider, one of which, descriptor 10, focuses on marine litter.  It states that GES can only be achieved when “properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment”  Click here more information.

In response to the problem, Marine Scotland have produced A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland which highlights measures and actions to try and tackle the issue.


Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil. Billions are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products but many end up washing up on our shores.  These tiny pieces of plastic can end up in the marine food chain and are increasingly a cause for concern.  To find out more and take part in gathering evidence locally visit the Great Nurdle Hunt website.

Litter Prevention Action Plan

Solway Firth Partnership share the Scottish Government’s vision of a litter-free Scotland, laid out in the national litter strategy, Towards a Litter-free Scotland which recognises the social, environmental and economic benefits of a cleaner greener Scotland.

SFP have published a Solway Firth Partnership LPAP Final and will review it annually to ensure that we are fulfilling our actions, and to help us identify areas where we can make further progress.  You can download a copy of the plan here