Marine litter is high on the scientific and political agendas and of major concern for European citizens. More than 80 percent of marine litter is plastic. It is estimated that by 2050, more plastic could be in the ocean than fish. It can be found on beaches (mostly produced locally), on the ocean surface, in animals and on the seafloor. Microplastics can get into the food chain, together with the integrated and adsorbed toxins. It is estimated that each year 5 to 13 million tonnes plastics reach the seas and oceans (worldwide), becoming eventually the main source of microplastics. In addition to possible health risks, the damage to marine ecosystems and the blue economy (tourism and other maritime sectors) due to plastic litter are enormous.
The overall goal of this topic is the demonstration of approaches or technologies to improve marine spatial planning and conservation (or even restoration) of coastal ecosystems. More specifically, this topic is for the demonstration of technologies to clean the seafloor and the surface of nearshore waters, and possibly the water column, from historically accumulated plastics and micro-plastics as well as from other accumulated marine litter and the assessment of effectiveness and impact. Accompanying research will have to address impacts on coastal ecosystems’ food chains, biodiversity and functioning, fisheries, aquaculture, Marine Protected Areas, wild life and local economies (all of these) 6, 12, 18 and 24 months after the (start of the) cleaning. At the end of the project, the consortium is expected to identify a way forward and lay the foundations for upscaling with a view to a future potentially automated removal of historically accumulated marine litter (legacy), in particular at hot-spots of accumulated marine litter.
This topic is in support of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.