HELCOM-Interreg-Workshop on Marine Litter and Ecodesign

It is estimated that that globally 4.7 million to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste enter the ocean annually from land. Marine litter significantly impacts the marine environment, its organisms as well as human beings. 

To that end, HELCOM and the INTERREG Project “EcoDesign Circle”  teamed up in order to organise a common workshop on ecodesign and marine litter on 15 June 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

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  • Baltic Sea

    Baltic Sea & Marine Litter

    The Baltic Marine Litter Interreg-Project MARLIN (2011 - 2013) comprehensively monitored reference beaches in Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. The numbers of items ranged from 76 items per 100m at rural beaches to 237 items per 100m at urban beaches with plastic as the biggest fraction of litter.

    Based on a compiled beach data set from 2016, most abundant items on EU beaches have been identified. "The main groups of items found on beaches in the Baltic Sea are discarded short-life or single-use goods, mostly consisting of sanitary and household waste, such as cotton bud sticks, bottles, food and snack packaging and cigarette butts. Fishing nets and micro-particles (fibers and remnants of car tires) are assumed to be important groups of marine litter."



    Marine litter is a global problem known to be harmful to organisms and to human health. Mechanical impacts from interactions with litter are indisputable. However, especially small, persistent plastic particles, so-called microplastics (fragments less than 5 mm in diameter), can be ingested by a wide range of organisms and may cause adverse physical and toxicological effects on biota. Also biodegradable plastics as an alternative solution may not degrade in the intestines of marine species. Additives in plastic particles can even absorb pollutants from the surrounding sea water and - once ingested - be transferred to tissues and increase the dangers of the "background pollution".

    Besides its impacts on biodiversity, marine debris also has socio-economic impacts and can lead to economic losses, such as for fishing and shipping industries, and for recreation and tourism.


    HELCOM - Regional Action Plan

    HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission - Helsinki Commission) was established to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental cooperation. A Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter was adopted in 2015 and aims to significantly reduce marine litter by 2025, compared to 2015.

    One action of this plan outlines to “establish a dialogue and negotiate on solutions with business and industry to (i) develop design improvements that reduce the negative impacts of products entering the marine environment, and (ii) reduce over-packaging and promote wise packaging”.

  • Aim of the workshop

    Aim of the workshop

    Marine litter has close ties with how we produce and consume products.
    In the Baltic Sea Area, the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (HELCOM) has set out a Plan of Action to prevent marine litter. One of the actions is to understand the role that ecodesign can play in reducing or preferably prevent marine litter. The results of the workshop will directly be used to develop measures and to create solutions for the issue. It is also aimed to create a network of interested stakeholders that facilitates future cooperation between designers, industry representatives, researchers and other interested stakeholders.

    Key questions

    Key questions

    » How can product design contribute to prevent marine litter?
    » How can products be designed in a way that, should they end up in the oceans, they cause as little damage as possible?
    » What is the role of product design in the bigger sustainability and circular economy context?
    » What do designers, product, service developers and engineers need to know in order to contribute in an adaquate way to marine litter prevention?
    » What are opportunities and limitations of sustainable design for marine litter? What are supportive systems? Which further framework conditions are needed so that ecodesigned services and products reach their objectives?

    When, where, for whom

    When, where, for whom?

    We invited designers, business and industry representatives, researchers and authorities from the Baltic Sea region to take part in this workshop and discuss and develop solutions for these urgent issues.

    Friday, 15th June 2018
    Berlin, Germany

  • Quotation 1

    Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

    Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer
    Quotation 2

    There could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.

    The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics - a joint World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation Report