National Fora Outcomes
How can we reduce the number of litter items on our beaches and in our seas? This question was at the heart of a lively interactive discussion during the 1st Marlisco National Marine Litter Forum held in Dublin in April. The event was the first of 12 marine litter fora being held across Europe as part of the Marlisco project. The forum successfully engaged a live audience including representatives from industry, waste management, retail, tourism and recreation, NGO’s, local authorities, State agencies as well as education/research.
Figure 1: The expert Panel from left to right Jim Armstrong (Plastics Recyclers Europe), Prof. Richard Thompson (World Expert on Marine Litter, Plymouth University), Patrick Chan (Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland) and Annabel FitzGerald (An Taisce’s Coastal Programmes Manager, Ireland).
To make the event more accessible to interested stakeholders from around the country, a live broadcast was transmitted online to satellite groups from around the Island of Ireland. Participants that watched the event online, also actively participated in all the same activities as the live audience in Dublin. Participants included representatives from tidy towns, county councils, education and research groups, aquaria, Clean Coasts groups, conservation groups and divers.
Figure 2: Banna Coastcare Satellite Group: David McCormick (Ecologist, Tralee Bay Wetlands), Rachel Boyle (Banna Coastcare Coordinator), Peter Green (Celtic Horizons Publishing and Maharees Coastcare) and Cllr. Gillian Wharton Slattery (Kerry County Council).
Watch a 3 minute YouTube video to get an idea of what it was about!
Sean Moncrieff from NewsTalk facilitated the forum and kick started it with a marine litter table quiz where the live audience, satellite groups and the expert panel were ask to identify a number of litter items and answer questions. The subsequent premiere of the short animation Sources and Impacts of Marine Litter, by Irish artist Jane Lee, developed in collaboration with the Marlisco project partners, stimulated a lively panel discussion.
Figure 3: Table activities at the Marine Litter Forum
The animation has since been made available online, and is receiving great interest not only in Ireland but from around the world (educators in Mozambique and Belize have requested a hard copy so that they can show the animation to schools in their countries that have limited or no Internet access).
The animation and Q&A session with the panel not only informed participants about marine litter, but also highlighted the sources, which are mainly land based e.g. landfills, rivers and beaches but also include the waste dumped at sea and lost fishing nets. Participants also learned that most marine litter is plastic because this material is persistent and its low density allows it to travel large distances across oceans.
Figure 4: Former International Rugby player Shane Byrne took part in the Marine Litter Forum, not only representing Arklow Waste Disposal (a family run business, which is looking to increase recycling and diversion of material from landfills) but he also helped Marlisco Ireland to raise the profile of the event.
Plastic litter fragments into smaller parts in the marine environment and becomes microplastic, which is defined as plastic pieces or fibres measuring less than 5 mm. Many of these enter our environment from home as fibres from laundry wastewater or plastic pellets used in industry or microbeads found in personal care products, which was very effectively highlighted by Prof Thompson, who brought microbead samples taken from different cosmetic products. The sources of marine litter are clearly linked to human behaviours and while apart from being unsightly, clean up procedures having a substantial economic cost, marine litter also harms our wildlife through for example ingestion/ swallowing, entanglement and smothering and there are health issues as toxins attach to microplastics which are entering the food chain.
Midway through the event, the facilitator asked the participants and satellite groups to work as teams of 5 and bring their unique experience to the table to come up with one specific action per group on how we might reduce marine litter. Over 20 ideas were captured and as individual participants were asked to vote on which ‘action’ they thought was the most effective and which most implementable at reducing marine litter.
Suggested actions ranged from a general ‘plastic levy’, a plastic bottle deposit refund scheme, positive pester power, clearer product specification, fishing for litter and a ban on plastic microbeads.