Plastic marine litter forming islands in our oceans and seas is a growing concern around the world, with implications for marine life as well as people. About 10 million tonnes of litter – 80% of it plastic – finds its way into the water each year, especially drink bottles and plastic bags. The waste takes hundreds of years to decompose in the marine environment.
SEI Tallinn has set about to tackle the problem in the context of the Baltic Sea by participating in the new project BLASTIC – plastic waste pathways into the Baltic Sea. “Plastic marine litter is not only a problem in distant oceans, but increasingly also in the Baltic Sea,” says Senior Expert Evelin Piirsalu. “BLASTIC aims to address and reduce this problem, thereby decreasing the negative effect on the human and living environment.”
Marine litter has a negative impact on the environment, the economy, and human well-being. Litter harms sea animals and birds, which swallow marine litter or get entangled in it. Some fish species that regularly swallow bits of plastic debris also end up on our tables as food, putting human health at risk.
In addition, there are socio-economic costs affecting mainly the coastal communities. For example, in order to increase the attractiveness of beaches in the eyes of tourists, many communities have to spend large sums on cleaning their coastal areas of waste.
Most of the plastic waste reaching the Baltic Sea originates from land, predominantly from big cities surrounding the Baltic Sea. It is therefore very important to implement measures to reduce the formation of waste before it reaches the sea. The local authorities have also an important role to play here.
The BLASTIC project will explore how plastic waste created in urban areas finds its way into the Baltic Sea and becomes marine litter. In addition, a methodology will be developed for monitoring the plastic waste that has reached the sea, to be implemented in three or four pilot urban areas. Based on the data collected, action plans will be developed in cooperation with the municipalities surrounding the Baltic Sea, including the City of Tallinn, to help reduce and prevent the creation of marine litter. The effects of plastic waste and microplastics on the environment and humans, including harm from toxins, will also be closely examined during the project.
Funded by the INTERREG Central Baltic Programme, Estonian Environmental Investment Centre and the City of Tallinn, BLASTIC is an international project engaging countries around the Baltic Sea. Project partners include IVL-Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Keep Sweden Tidy (Håll Sverige Rent), Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association, Fee Latvia, as well as the cities of Tuku and Tallinn.