It is often said that the oceans are somewhat of a final frontier, with lots of discoveries still lying ahead of scientists. But one of the things we are increasingly aware of is the damage landfill practices have caused to these ecosystems.
MARLISCO is one of the reasons behind this increased societal awareness: since June 2012, the project team has been promoting co-responsibility among stakeholders to give ground to more concerted actions. The project held its final meeting last month in Rome, Italy. The event offered an opportunity to reflect back on initiatives taken over the past three years.
MARLISCO can be seen as a leading voice on marine litter and how it can be tackled. It is indeed generally agreed that, while scientists may be hard at work trying to answer our many questions about marine debris, the only viable solution at this point is to keep the 8.6 billion tonnes of plastics being dumped in oceans every year from getting there in the first place. And to do this, two key measures are required: actions to increase public awareness and support for local, national and regional initiatives.
Over the past three years, the MARLISCO team has proven that European citizens are concerned about marine litter and willing to do what it takes to reverse the trend. The team notably organised a video contest which involved some 2 123 youngsters and 118 schools from across Europe, as well as national forums, e-courses for educators and a two-round public consultation on perceptions and attitudes towards marine litter — with the last round having been closed earlier this week. All of these initiatives demonstrated the extent of public interest in Europe. In particular, the 379 videos that were submitted for the video contest offer ample proof of the level of engagement regarding the issue.
Potential solutions to tackling the marine litter issue were also at the heart of MARLISCO. After a thorough evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses, 73 best practices aiming to reduce the amount of litter in European seas were identified. These include beach cleaning, exchange programmes for plastic bottles, campaigns to reduce the distribution of free plastic bags, incentives for fishermen to collect plastics entangled in their nets, waste minimization guides, etc.
Before the project ends in May 2015, the information gathered will serve as a basis for the production of a guidance document on marine litter problems, processes and solutions as well as recommendations on how to communicate with stakeholders.
The project is still working on some other key deliverables which the team hopes to release soon. One of these is a web documentary aiming to sensitize the general public to marine litter sources, impacts and solutions in an interactive manner. A serious game entitled ‘Sea dream team’ is also planned. It will provide players with an opportunity to play eight characters from different backgrounds – from a fisherman to a beach enthusiast – with each profile having his/her own perspective on the impact of marine litter.