THE PLASTICBUSTERS MPAS APPROACH: SUCCESSFUL TESTED MEASURES FOR MARINE LITTER PREVENTION AND MITIGATION – WEBINAR 04/07/2022

Last 4 July, the fourth webinar of Working Group 2 on “Sustainable use of natural resources” took place to share some of the results of the measures tested within the PLASTICBUSTERs MPAs project to prevent and mitigate marine litter.

The webinar was introduced by Jordi Juarez, Project Officer at the CPMR Intermediterranean Commission, who presented the Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community project together with the Working Group 2 Technical Paper and the main project outputs - the declaration for an ecosystem-based approach and the Knowledge Platform on biodiversity protection and management in the Mediterranean, which gathers all the resources available coming from the projects in an integrated way.  

In the first session, moderated by Luca Santarossa (CPMR consultant), Thomais Vlachogianni from MIO-ECSDE gave an overview of PLASTICBUSTERS MPAs project. For the first time, a project made an overall state-of-play of the situation of macro litter and microliter (beaches, sea surfaces and seafloors) to have a harmonized diagnosis of the problem and reliable data. This comprehensive diagnosis of the marine litter problem made possible tailor-made actions on the ground. 

Thomais recalled that plastic should not be seen as the enemy as it is part of our daily life, but it is necessary to reduce its use and recycle it, within a circular economy (source, manufacture, distribution, consumption, and recovery).  The project also focused on some misconceptions about the Mediterranean basin and plastic. For instance, substituting ‘conventional’ plastics with biobased plastics is merely a distraction to the marine litter issue, it only shifts the problem to another material without solving it. 

Different prevention and mitigation measures were tested in 10 Mediterranean MPAs with engaging results such as:

  • Setting up a SUPs free network coastal food and beverage outlet in Strunjan Landscape Park MPA with 400 stakeholders engaged.
  • Establishing an ALDFG scheme to tackle fisheries and aquaculture litter in Thermaikos Gulf Protected Areas that helped in the recovery and recycling of 22 tons of derelict mussels’ nets.
  • Setting up a reusable cup delivery system for 14 beach bars and 10 festivals in Ebro Delta Natural (to be replicated this summer 2022).  

However, some challenges were found to implement them. For the first measure, it was difficult to identify low-cost proper alternatives with high environmental performance, find the proper timing for the implementation (due to the seasonality of beach bars) and convince the business owners to make the change; For the second one, logistics related to collection, storage and transportation as well as a conflict of interest among different stakeholders; And challenges for the last one included selecting the right cup and assessing the environmental performance of the overall measure.  

All in all, one of the greatest challenges is to turn science into policy and actions with feasible and effective solutions, participatory decision-making, bottom-up approaches, coordinated multilevel actions and social innovations for a paradigm shift in the way we produce and consume.  

The following intervention was outlined by Christos Ioakeimidis (coordinating unit for the Mediterranean action plan UNEP/MAP). He gave some insights by presenting its strengths and its aspects to be improved. He particularly appreciated the evidence based and tailored approach tested in different settings and its correspondence to the policy priorities. He also highlighted the feasibility of measures with relatively low cost that don’t require a high level of skills, the high replication, transferring and scalability potential as well as the inclusivity of all stakeholders (i.e., beach bars).  

He encouraged to assess the environmental and economic impact and implications of the measures in a more comprehensive way to see where further improvements can be made to enhance their effectiveness, develop a comprehensive inventory of appropriate alternatives for SUPs and seek new/creative/engaging ways for all different stakeholder groups (i.e., fishermen, industries...) 

The workshop’s last part collected some feedback from the audience. A question on how many actors were engaged in the different pilots came up. Thomais stressed that numbers per se are not important, the focus should be put in the long-term commitment and the sustainability of the measure. Also, participants asked about the main difficulties in engaging the economic actors of the seaside. The main difficulties are given by the fact that usually they have little economic dimension, they work only in the summer season, and they do not invest a lot in staff training; but those who accepted to test project’s measures detected a significant appreciation by the customers.  

An exciting and deep discussion, to be continued in the next webinar July 12, 2022, dealing with the tourist use of beaches and Posidonia Oceanica conservation. 

You can find below the webinar’s visual report with key messages and the agenda.  

For further information about the webinar or the Working Group 2, please contact jordi.juarez@crpm.org